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‘Lisa Frankenstein’ (digital review)

Universal

 

“He’s not really into jock stuff- he’s cerebral.”

“He’s in a wheelchair?!”

In Lisa Frankenstein, the new horror comedy from the pen of Diablo Cody and Zelda Williams’ directorial debut, romance isn’t dead, but it has been re-animated.

It’s 1989, (depending on your sensibilities, the fashion alone should be horrific enough!), and troubled goth teen Lisa Swallows (Kathryn Newton) struggles to cope with a new town, an unforgiving high school and a new family following her mother’s death at the hands of a mad axe-man.

No-one understands Lisa.

As her lovably dim step-sister tells her, “you don’t have to worry about anything, cause your mom has already been murdered!”

The only place she can find some peace and quiet and temporary respite from her hellish adolescence is when she visits the neglected grave of an obscure 19th century musician.

When a freak thunderstorm brings him back to life as a muck-encrusted zombie with smelly tears, (a mostly mute Cole Sprouse, credited only as “The Creature”), Lisa takes him in, cleans him up and hides him. (After an impromptu makeover, he looks more like The Crow than Bill Skarsgard in the reboot trailer!) His lack of co-ordination and penchant for destruction doesn’t make him a perfect house guest, but having a silent confidant who doesn’t criticise her gives Lisa more confidence and drive.

She becomes more assertive and sets out to get what she wants for a change… but first she needs to find replacement body parts for her new friend.  As Lisa herself muses, he’s “a dead man, not a Chrysler,” meaning those body parts must be donated by those who deserve to donate them!

As the body count slowly rises, will they be caught and stopped?

As the Creature becomes more human and Lisa more of a monster, will she ever find true happiness and get her man.. or zombie?

Along with various classic influences, (Eerie Indiana, Edward Scissorhands and Frankenhooker spring to mind, with a snatch of Pretty in Pink!), Lisa Frankenstein unsurprisingly combines elements of Diablo Cody’s previous work- the dialogue is quotably razor sharp and supporting characters like Lisa Soberino’s Taffy are well drawn. (Carla Gugino is a particular delight as Lisa’s stepmom from hell, a self-proclaimed “mother, nurse and an angel” who is more about knick-knacks and aerobics than family love.)

Speaking of “well drawn”, there are flashes of visual brilliance here in the Tim Burton-esque shadow puppet opening credits providing an “origin” for the Creature and a psychedelic dream sequence featuring nods to Georges Melies’ silent classic A Trip To The Moon and British children’s TV icon Bagpuss of all things.

Extras include featurettes, a gag reel, and trailers.

Ultimately I did enjoy this movie, but funny and stylish as it was, I found it distinctively lacking in terms of actual horror- something you couldn’t accuse Jennifer’s Body of!

I can’t help thinking there is a much nastier, less compromised movie in there with suitably darker humour- it’s worth a watch, but bring on the director’s cut!

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