The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | ‘Lisa Frankenstein’ puts a horror spin on the classic romcom format

Kathryn Newton and Cole Sprouse kill it as an unlikely, undead couple in Diablo Cody’s newest film.
Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODA
Cole Sprouse greets people Sunday, May 28, 2023, before the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The wonderfully weird comedy “Lisa Frankenstein” is sure to make for a perfect night out at the movies this Valentine’s Day.

Traditional romantic comedies have been making a strong comeback recently, but “Lisa Frankenstein” seeks to throw a wrench in the tried-and-true genre by adding horror elements. The film was released in theaters on Feb. 9.

Director Zelda Williams’ absurd comedy follows the story of Lisa Swallows, an outcasted high school senior played by Kathryn Newton. Lisa is lonely and misunderstood, but she goes on a journey of self-discovery after her crush, a dead Victorian-era corpse played by Cole Sprouse, awakens from his grave to aid her.

If that synopsis sounds strange, be prepared, because the events that follow are even stranger. Lisa and her reanimated corpse crush discover what it means to be in love while leaving a trail of destruction and dead bodies in their wake, which just screams romantic.

Diablo Cody penned the script for the film, which is undoubtedly the film’s strongest lure. Cody has previously written cult-horror-classic “Jennifer’s Body” and, in my opinion, one of the best comedies of the 2000s, “Juno.” Her scripts always contain a layer of absurdity which makes the films she writes feel unique to other comedies, and “Lisa Frankenstein” is no different.

For a film about a murderous undead monster, the romantic core of the film worked well. I am usually not a fan of generic romcom tropes, but the heightened reality of “Lisa Frankenstein” made the cheesiness of its central relationship more effective.

The campy tone is vital to what the film is going for, too. Every scene is drenched in colorful neons or pastels to mimic similar films of the 1980s and, whenever one of the many songs starts to play, it feels like a perfect choice for a classic horror-throwback vibe.

In fact, throughout the film, there are many references to the original monster films of the 1930s. Lisa is a big fan of old monster movies which made her a more interesting rom-com protagonist, one that isn’t common in the genre.

Although “Frankenstein” is in the title, the film is not an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel. However, as a big fan of the book myself, I found more homages to the classic tale than I expected.

RELATED:  Review | ‘Anyone But You’ is another basic and predictable romantic comedy

Lisa resembles a modern interpretation of Victor Frankenstein: she has a similar tragic backstory, develops a fascination with science, and even goes on a similar journey to that of Victor and the Monster that I won’t spoil.

“Lisa Frankenstein” balances a romantic comedy tone with its dark and often strange plot, but the jokes always managed to land, and the story remained interesting the entire time. It won’t change your life, but it’s a solid entertaining way to spend an evening.

“Lisa Frankenstein” is now playing in theaters.

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About the Contributor
Charlie Hickman
Charlie Hickman, Arts Reporter
Charlie Hickman is a sophomore at the University of Iowa. He is majoring in English on the Pre-Law track with minors in Political Science and Cinema.