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"Lisa Frankenstein" Review

 What happened to Diablo Cody? After her Oscar-winning debut screenplay for 2007's Juno, she followed up with the cult classic Jennifer's Body in 2009, then pretty much never wrote another movie that did business since. I see she won a Tony for her book of the Jagged Little Pill musical, but movie-wise she's been a non-entity for over a decade. And that losing streak hit a new low with Lisa Frankenstein, which also marked the feature directing debut (and likely finale) of Robin Williams' daughter Zelda.

We were watching this because a friend of the missus had claimed Poor Things - my #2 pick for this year's Best Picture - was a ripoff of the plot to Frankenhooker, which we hadn't seen. With the Oscars Death March over, it was time to check it out, but we decided to look at this first and hoo boy, was it bad.

 Kathryn Newton (Cassie Lang in Ant-Man: Quantumania) is Lisa Swallows, a teenage girl in 1989 whose mother was killed two years prior by a random axe murderer. Her father, Dale (Joe Chrest, Stranger Things), remarried a mean woman, Janet (Carla Gugino), and now she has bubbly cheerleader half-sister, Taffy (Liza Soberano, she's big in the Philippines), which doesn't match her misanthropic personality. She likes to hang out in an abandoned cemetery, making rubbings of tombstones and hanging out at the grave of a young man who died in the 19th Century.

 After accidentally getting a spiked drink at a house party and almost raped by a dorky high school boy, Lisa goes to the cemetery and wishes she could be with the dead young man forever. After she goes home, a freak storm causes lighting to hit and guess who's back from the dead?

When the Creature (Cole Sprouse, Jughead on Riverdale) shows up at her home, she's naturally terrified because it seems to be a replay of how her mother died, but then a few seconds later she realizes this is the guy from the cemetery and decides to stash the zombie in her closet. He's missing an ear, hand and penis, but with a combination of murder and an extremely defective tanning bed that Taffy won as Miss Hawaiian Tropic, she can rebuild him and he becomes more lively looking in the process.

While the premise seems to have potential as a mashup of several horror and teen movies, nothing works starting with Lisa who is simply unlikable and ill-defined as if the pages of the script where you'd set up the protagonist were lost or never written and Newton doesn't imbue her with any charm. Gugino's stepmother is a cartoon; her dad is a passive wimp who never seems to be emotionally engaged even when his wife goes missing; all the teen boys are blockheads. Only Taffy is a basically decent character which is meant to be a twist because she's introduced as a vapid bimbette. Sprouse does well with a nearly wordless performance, but it's clear his direction was "be Edward Scissorhands."

But beyond the thin script, the direction by Williams doesn't get the tone anywhere near right. Horror-comedy done properly results in the likes of Evil Dead II, An American Werewolf in London, Freaky, and the recent Amazon Prime Original Totally Killer. Black comedies like American Psycho or Heathers could go wildly wrong if mishandled. Lisa Frankenstein is a prime example of bad script meeting incompetent direction resulting in a mishmash mess of little merit.

However, in response to this disaster the missus suggested we watch a movie I've owned forever, but had never gotten around to watching though she'd seen it, Life After Beth.

Score: 2/10. Skip it!


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