Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

“Lisa Frankenstein”: “Heathers” but make it camp

Courtesy of Focus Features

In the 1980s, teen comedies had taken over American cinemas by storm. Filmmakers such as John Hughes gave audiences beloved teen comedy classics from “Sixteen Candles” (1984) to “The Breakfast Club” (1985).

When the 1989 black comedy, “Heathers,” hit the big screen, audiences were more than less thrown for a loop. The film, which depicted a more dark and cynical style from the usual lighthearted coming-of-age genre, came with mixed reactions.

Nevertheless, several viewers found themselves enthralled by the experience. “Heathers” is now highly regarded as a cult classic and even one of the greatest coming-of-age films of all time. With the recent release of “Lisa Frankenstein,” I believe that it is safe to say that it desperately attempts to follow in its footsteps, but let’s dig a little deeper.

“Lisa Frankenstein” is a comedy horror film directed by first time director Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late actor and comedian Robin Williams, and written by Diablo Cody, known for 2007’s “Juno.” The film stars Kathryn Newton and Cole Sprouse as the two leads. Set in the year 1989, the story follows Lisa Swallows, a lonely teenage girl grieving over the loss of her mother who was axe murdered two years earlier. Now living with her oblivious father, narcissistic stepmother, and bubbly stepsister, Taffy, she tries to find joy in her life. She hangs around the local cemetery in her spare time and becomes infatuated with the grave of a young Victorian man. One night, lightning strikes his grave, bringing him back to life and uniting him with Lisa. They start to bond and set out on a journey to bring themselves happiness at the expense of others.

I’ve never encountered a film trying its best to resemble the likeness of “Heathers” more
than this one. Without the incorporation of its “Frankenstein” element, it’s almost a splitting image. The main plot point of the film is that Lisa and The Creature embark on a killing spree in
exchange for body parts. There’s an interesting parallel here. “Lisa Frankenstein” prides itself on
its bold and outlandish storyline sprinkled with a bit of ‘80s nostalgia. After watching the trailer
and reading the film’s synopsis, it seemed quite promising. The Creature’s character is, without a doubt, heavily influenced by the monster from Frankenstein with its mute and disfigured state.

Still, the film manages to pull its character influences from popular horror and gothic films of the
‘80s and early ‘90s. The monster of the film takes a caring and introverted personality similar to
“Edward Scissorhands,” and blends it with the violent and aggressive tendencies of J.D.’s character from “Heathers.” Paired alongside Lisa Swallows, the typical lonely teenage girl who became his “savior,” it was an oddly great pair of playful and horror archetypes that I thought was rather enjoyable to watch on the screen.

One thing I can give this film its flowers for is its production design, including costuming
and hair and makeup. Honestly, this is what initially drew me in. It’s goth and camp. What
screams ‘80s goth and camp more than big hair, red lips, and a puffy black dress? It’s jarring and off-putting, yet bold and whimsical. Lisa’s dramatic wardrobe transition to this aesthetic was a bit over the top to the point where it ridicules the fashion trends of the ‘80s. But I’d like to think this actually worked in favor of Lisa’s character arc. Unruly wardrobe paired with unruly behavior.

“Lisa Frankenstein” does its best to pay homage to horror and teen comedies of the ‘80s. One could argue how well it will stand against its influential predecessors. Can it become a cult classic? Maybe…

Is it iconic and original enough to hold it to that status? Not to mention, the film did not perform exceedingly well at the box office, but then again, “Heathers” was a flop until years later.

Perhaps, “Lisa Frankenstein” may have to make its way to the grave and wait for its

3.5/5 stars

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