A Violently Delightful Neon Gothic ’80s Throwback

The most immediately compelling aspect of “Lisa Frankenstein” is its unique visual palette. Director Zelda Williams taps into the aesthetics of the ’80s with impressive attention to detail, but this is far from just a retro pastiche: It captures the spirit of films like “Beetlejuice,” “Heathers,” and even lesser-known gems such as “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “Better Off Dead.” There are so many little touches that ground “Lisa Frankenstein” in a very specific vision of the ’80s, from Lisa’s dad’s shoe phone (if you recall from “Juno,” Diablo Cody is a sucker for a novelty phone) to Taffy’s malfunctioning tanning bed and Janet’s beloved collection of Precious Moments figurines. And the costumes — well, they’re perfection. The increasingly theatrical and gothic outfits that Lisa wears to school during her courtship with the Creature deserve to be in a museum.

Kathryn Newton owns every inch of the screen as she brings Lisa to life, a morbid outsider whose tendency to hang out in cemeteries hasn’t exactly won her friends. She’s an odd little duck with a flair for the dramatic, making her the perfect companion for Cole Sprouse’s resurrected early 1800s-era musician. Whereas Newton articulates Lisa’s every thought, the role of the Creature is almost entirely silent, which seems like a smart choice on the part of the filmmakers. Not because Sprouse can’t be trusted to deliver lines or anything like that, but because the Creature has a much higher likelihood of coming across as incredibly cheesy the more he has to say — especially in the hands of Cody, whose verbosity couldn’t help but work against the moody, gothic tone of the character. Instead, Sprouse is given the opportunity to put in an entirely physical performance, and he takes full advantage of every facial expression to endear his sad little Victorian pianist to the audience. 

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