As Kathryn Newton (Supernatural, Big Little Lies) and Cole Sprouse (Riverdale, Suite Life franchise) continue to find their footing away from the television sets and onto the silver screen, their horror camp acumen sold the entirety of Lisa Frankenstein.
Lisa Frankenstein enters a current Hollywood climate that doesn’t exactly have a David Cronenberg or a Tim Kincaid, yet Zelda Williams took from the cheesy ’80s B-side horror of yesteryear with exceptional care. The flick is unlikely to generate Academy buzz in 2025, is unlikely to provide true mainstream appeal, and isn’t going to smash box office records. Yet, that’s okay as it never tries to be anything other than an enjoyable time. The film provides a niche satisfaction with a very specific form of nostalgia that allows the viewer to travel back to an era where they’d look for the cheesiest horror movie at their local Hollywood Video to rent for a Friday night pizza party with their friends.
The premise takes from quite a few of the cult-classic premises of the 1980s but does so in a way that provides a fresh innovation of the ideas. Newton’s character is pretty paint-by-numbers: a teenager struggling to cope with the murder of her mom while being unable to re-adjust to life in high school with a new step-family. Sprouse’s character is very arthouse horror trope-filled: a dead man brought back to life and re-animated. The two go on a murder spree while finding solace within each other.
While refraining from going into further details of the film, knowing what to expect is crucial to the ticket. Be that as it may, the film never loses sight of exactly what the film wants to be. The kills are fun and imaginative to the fullest extent, the story constantly leans into its inherent camp, the makeup is fascinating to look at but not at all terrifying, and the entire design of the film is ’80s stereotype down to the fluorescent lighting, the suburban stepmom wearing joggers found in the retro Aerobics videos, hot pink tanning beds in the main characters shed, and the old-school China cabinets.
The acting is sharp, especially from Sprouse, who continues to be one of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets as he strives to shake off people’s memory of him being a child actor on the hottest sitcom of the new millennium. Sprouse doesn’t have a part that allows him any dialogue by the nature of his character, though his physical performance transcends the film. Sprouse’s innate ability to command the audience’s attention without the use of a primary acting tool is a testament to his growth as an actor since his Disney days. Furthermore, Newton brings a deeper sense of likability to the cast. Newton’s shrewd subtleties took a quick and sharp character turn in the movie and made it work at a high level. Newton’s road to becoming a modern ‘scream queen’ is reaching its exit, as the actress seems to soon be arriving at her destination. Liza Soberano, in the role of Taffy, is also a standout in the later acts of the picture.
As theatres around the country did surprise mystery showings of Lisa Frankenstein on Monday night, audiences received their first real look at a film that’s been kept under wraps despite its fanfare. In my local theatre, the energy was palpable. The audience clapped during one of the kills, while the laughter echoed over the movie at other points. The film is a little gross and the dialogue cheesy, but Zelda remembers that the movie is supposed to be fun and is supposed to make fun of itself, which only works in Lisa Frankenstein’s favour. The film is set to be an under-the-radar theatrical experience and one that provides an entertaining 105 minutes where the viewer doesn’t need to think. Sometimes, that’s all that movies need to be. Cinemas are better when every film isn’t taking itself too seriously.
Lisa Frankenstein is set to premiere in theatres domestically this Friday and in the United Kingdom on March 1st.
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