We've been frothing at the mouth since Lisa Frankenstein was announced. A new horror comedy written by Diablo Cody, starring Kathryn Newton and Cole Sprouse, with Zelda Williams, daughter of the legendary Robin Williams, making her feature directorial debut, bringing her colorful vision to the director's chair. Count us all the way in! The official synopsis is as follows:
A coming of RAGE love story about a teenager and her crush, who happens to be a corpse. After a set of horrific circumstances bring him back to life, the two embark on a journey to find love, happiness - and a few missing body parts.
Say no more. With that brief plot overview and the names attached, we were already sold on whatever ride was in store. Then we saw the Lisa Frankenstein trailer, and it was game over. February 9th could not come soon enough.
During the red carpet premiere, Jennifer’s Body writer Diablo Cody told Deadline, “I am just declaring that this movie takes place in the same universe.”
This of course, set social media ablaze. Cody’s return to horror comedy has been a much-anticipated journey. It’s no secret that Jennifer’s Body was, in Cody’s words, a “commercial and critical disaster” at the time.
“I was nervous to get back into that,” she told Deadline. “And then this magical thing happened the last few years where that movie found an audience and people began to really appreciate it. And it gave me the confidence to say, ‘You know what? I never lost my passion for that world and I want to do another one.’ So, I’m here.”
Release Date Unveiled
We first brought you news of this '80s gender-swapped Frankenstein tale in the summer of 2022, with a first peek at a bit of teenage necromancy just before Halloween of 2023. Along with that first look, we also got the announcement of a February 9 release date, making it perfect for any Valentine’s plans.
Meet the Cast
Lisa Frankenstein’s leads are no strangers to the world of horror. In the titular role, Kathryn Newton previously did a bit of body-swapping as a well-dressed serial killer in 2020’s Freaky. She also appeared in CW’s long-running fan favorite Supernatural as Claire Novak.
Playing opposite Kathryn, as an undead corpse far too charming to not dig up, is fellow CW alumni Cole Sprouse. Sprouse has starred in everything from Friends to Adam Sandler comedies, Disney hits like Suite Life, and rom-coms. But horror fans may know him best as Jughead Jones from CW’s Riverdale.
Interestingly enough, during an interview with FANGORIA, Newton mentioned that when she first learned about the project, she assumed the focus would be more on Sprouse as The Creature rather than on Lisa. “I read it like Creature was this big character, and my character was very small and quiet. It’s nothing like that.”
Liza Soberano stands out as Lisa’s popular cheerleader stepsister, who defies most of the genre stereotypes we’ve come to expect. Carla Gugino decked out in full aerobics gear as Lisa’s stepmom is a treat, and Joe Chrest, who Stranger Things fans will recognize as Mike’s dad, Ted Wheeler, plays Lisa’s dad.
The first teasers for Lisa Frankenstein introduced us to a world of bright neon, dripping in ‘80s aesthetic. Cole Sprouse as The Creature rising from a tanning bed before releasing a howl of utter terror. When In Rome’s “The Promise” blaring over the clever one-liners. And some possible murderous goings-on. The first look at the aesthetic Williams and team had crafted ratched the electric excitement up to eleven.
Clearly, we were getting a love story from beyond the grave. But with a glimpse at our Lisa Frankenstein and Creature, many questions remained. What was the backstory here? How did The Creature come to be undead? Was Lisa a budding young scientist who set out to reanimate a date from the great beyond? Luckily you don’t have to wait much longer to have all of your questions answered.
Behind the Scenes
The title itself, “Lisa Frankenstein,” is a play on the popular Lisa Frank brand. Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers, lunchboxes, and various school supplies ruled school hallways in classrooms in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with signature artwork heavily featuring rainbows, neon colors, and usually an animal or two.
The gender-swapped Frankenstein story insinuated by the title mashed up with the “Lisa Frank” aesthetic, spills Zelda Williams’ vision onto the screen in bold, vibrant colors.
In an exclusive interview with FANGORIA, Lisa Frankenstein costume designer Meagan McLaughlin revealed that she drew inspiration from ‘80s classics like Say Anything, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and Heathers. With some specific inspiration from one icon in particular, “Winona Ryder is a huge influence for me in that period, and we were absolutely inspired by her costumes in Beetlejuice and Heathers.” Perhaps a more surprising source of inspiration was Buster Keaton.
For a particularly stylish fever dream sequence, McLaughlin created hand-painted Victorian inspired costumes for both Kathryb Newton and Cole Sprouse, harkening back to Frankenstein roots.
The production design is aggressively ‘80s. Lisa’s bathroom, in particular, is a gem, and her bedroom is a blend of pastel pinks and monster kid renderings adorning the walls. The house where she lives with her father, stepmother, and stepsister is a sea of pastels and patterns that fully immerses audiences in this world.
The creature design of Sprouse’s re-animated corpse is reminiscent of Buster Keaton meets Frankenstein’s Monster, meets Heathers’ JD, meets Edward Scissorhands. The Creature appears in various stages of decay, and there are some clever costume nods to Universal’s most iconic version of Frankenstein’s Monster, with an ‘80s twist.
In his leading man roles, Cole Sprouse usually has a bevy of witty lines. This wordless performance allowed him to show off his physical comedy skills. He even studied with a mime in preparation for the role.
Exploring the Colorful Terror
Lisa Frankenstein blends and bends genres, mixing horror and comedy in a way that only Diablo Cody can. Ultimately, it’s a unique mashup of dark comedy, rom-com, and horror. Despite the vibrant neon, the subject matter goes rather dark, and it’s all done in such a way that it results in some genuine laugh-out-loud moments of disbelief. So don’t be fooled by the neon. Terror can be just as vibrant in bold, beautiful colors. Like an EC comic come to life.
Lisa Frankenstein is Heathers for goths who grew up reading Poe and Shelley. With that Heathers DNA pumping through its veins, Diablo Cody's writing is as bitingly hilarious as ever, and Kathryn Newton brings the comedy (and the corpses) to life.
Cole Sprouse comes full circle from "Fwankenstein" to a Frankenstein-esque creature complete with clever costume nods, and the whole thing is a neon-soaked party. And perhaps the best part? It all gets incredibly darker than expected, in the most glorious way. I sincerely hope folks go all out with Barbie-esque watch parties, complete with extravagant outfits.
Where to watch Lisa Frankenstein
Lisa Frankenstein is now playing in theaters. Dig up some friends and check your local showtimes right here. You can also watch at home, Lisa Frankenstein will be available exclusively on digital platforms to own or rent on February 27. Enjoy this colorful corpse-y love story on the big screen or from the comfort of your couch.