tThe surprise success of 2007’s Juno gave Hollywood an unusual new star, an outspoken young stripper-turned-screenwriter whose existence upended the industry’s dusty expectations, and who became difficult to easily pigeonhole. Diablo Cody, who wrote her first successful screenplay before she turned 30, was rewarded with an Oscar and in a profession where household names are rarer than rare, she became a minor celebrity, with all eyes fixed on which one she would become. your next step.
Cody’s follow-up, the poppy supernatural horror Jennifer’s Body, turned those plaudits into ridicule: an Oscar winner suddenly attracted the unfair attention of the Razzies (an admittedly atrocious institution with a deeply stupid voting record) and repelled that of the public. The response was a mix of bewilderment and bile and only years later did she begin to find an audience as a Midnight Movie mainstay and the subject of one musing after another praising her astute feminism and her deeply underrated performance by Megan Fox. Her stature has grown. to the point that Cody’s new film, Lisa Frankenstein, possibly only exists because of it, another high school-set horror comedy sold as the latest from the Jennifer’s Body writer, a curious twist and an encouraging sign of how the streaming Access has helped turn mistakes into successes in recent years.
But while it is a green light in itself, it is the well-deserved victory that was owed to Cody years before, the actual outcome is not entirely certain for those of us who are watching, and those of us who have been waiting, a cult classic wannabe that we will have sadly forgotten by morning.
As with the vastly superior Jennifer’s Body (though still more uneven than its most enthusiastic defenders would like to admit), Cody takes the elements of a classic monster movie and gives them a remix. This time it’s the late ’80s, a period perfectly suited to Cody’s nostalgia, and our unpopular teen protagonist is now Lisa (Kathryn Newton), struggling to find her place at a new high school. She has a dark and gruesome history (her mother was murdered by a masked killer) and she prefers to spend time at the local cemetery than at house parties, even though her new stepsister (Liza Soberano) tries to involve her. In a series of circumstances involving the accidental ingestion of a hallucinogen, an attempted rape, and a spooky green storm, Lisa’s favorite grave is unearthed and a reanimated corpse (Riverdale’s Cole Sprouse) becomes a secret she must keep hidden. in his closet.
It’s very much the PG-13 gateway drug to the harsher R-rated horror of Jennifer’s Body, a happier, sillier film that not only takes place in the ’80s, but demands comparison to the horror-comedy brand. teenager launched at that time. But director Zelda Williams, daughter of Robin, is not only aiming for the lesser-known compositions (My Boyfriend’s Back, My Demon Lover, Teen Witch, Weird Science), but is boldly attempting to riff on Heathers and primarily evoke the spirit of Tim . Burton, to the surreal suburban setting and a gothic animated sequence. There’s a real commitment to the part, helped by Cody’s attention to detailed period references, but the film never reaches the heights it seeks with pacing that feels a little off and a script that’s sloppy when it should. Be skilled. Lisa’s willingness to help her new, zombified friend on a murderous quest for body parts never makes much sense given how grotesque and uncaring he is and how relatively easy it seems for her to find acceptance elsewhere. We’re never quite sure who Lisa really is, style aside, and Newton, who struck the balance between comedy and horror in 2020’s much more assured genre mash-up, Freaky, feels equally lacking in confidence. His performance works in parts, but he’s a note-perfect Sovereign and a loudly unpleasant Carla Gugino as her evil stepmother who steal the show, both more in tune with the tropes of the era.
The film feels a little caught between two worlds, a teen sleepover comedy bordering on body horror, so some scenes feel clumsily sanitized, as if an unrated DVD were on the way, full of gory excess, the dialogue Cody’s spiky character also feels a little weakened by his need to hold back (his wildly underrated 2011 comedy Young Adult remains one of the best, nastiest films ever made). Instead of proving that he’s a new rewatchable favorite for a teenage audience of Wednesday goth fans, he ends up being better suited for his parents to point out and remember. Admittedly, Lisa Frankenstein wears inspiration from her on her black lace sleeves, never feigning true originality, but there’s only so much looking back we can handle without things moving at least a little forward. Bringing a subgenre back from the dead, Cody and Williams could use a little more life.