Young man and woman sitting by a window

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Despite its flaws and an '80s soundtrack that outshines the film itself, Zelda Williams' directorial debut, "Lisa Frankenstein," crafts a modern-day Frankenstein tale with a mix of camp, romance, and a dash of gore. This oddly satisfying concoction resembles the quirky storytelling of Tim Burton’s classics, such as "Edward Scissorhands" and "Beetlejuice."

Penned by Diablo Cody, known for "Jennifer's Body," the film is a coming-of-rage story about a misfit teenager and a reanimated corpse. Is this the dawn of a new cult classic?

Set in the neon-tinted year 1989, Kathryn Newton's Lisa is an outcast struggling with her mother's tragic murder. She is navigating her senior year at a new high school, further complicated by her father's remarriage to an insufferable nurse (Carla Gugino). Amidst this chaos, she finds an unlikely confidante in her cheerleader stepsister, Taffy, who offers a genuine sisterly connection.

Lisa finds solace in a cemetery and a peculiar fascination with a specific tombstone that takes a literal lightning-struck turn, reanimating a corpse (Cole Sprouse). Decked out in a blazer and a Violent Femmes tee, Lisa and her undead companion embark on a macabre quest for identity, love, and a few missing body parts.

Kathryn Newton channels a Winona Ryder-esque vibe from the '80s. Lisa isn't portrayed as another mad scientist playing God; instead, she's depicted as a regular person seeking her place in the world. Her journey of collecting body parts with her "monster" serves as a metaphor for the lengths and sacrifices she makes to carve out her identity. As Lisa's confidence grows, her playful mischief leads to debatable choices.

As the reanimated corpse with little dialogue and stiff movements, Cole Sprouse masterfully conveys depth and humor through mere grunts and gazes. His performance is a testament to the power of physical comedy, affirming that sometimes, less truly is more.

The supporting cast, including Carla Gugino, in a small role as a cringe-worthy '80s stepmom, is perfectly unlikable and viciously unaware of her faults while critiquing others. Joe Chrest, known from "Stranger Things," hits the mark as the supremely laid-back dad, entirely whipped by his new wife. Liza Soberano impresses as Taffy, Lisa's stepsister, subverting the mean-girl trope with genuine kindness and support for Lisa, adding a tad of depth to the narrative.

The production screams the '80s, with its palette of pinks and purples, big hair, loud outfits, and a soundtrack that'll have you dusting off your vinyl collection. The practical effects –– a favorable stand out –– and a creative monster design offer a fresh take while paying homage to genre classics.

However, the film struggles with its direction post-setup, mixing horror and whimsy to an emotionally jumbled and unevenly paced effect. Lisa's transformation from mourning daughter to avenging goth is underdeveloped, and the narrative fails to fully connect her past and present. While the themes are there, none fully take center stage to drive the story forward. Some grotesque visuals and jokes hit the spot, but that doesn't solve the jumbled mess.

"Lisa Frankenstein" works by fully embracing its campiness, delivering a unique and unwavering vision, and remaining true to its creative goals without compromise. Zelda Williams boldly navigates her picture with heart. Diablo Cody's script unapologetically transforms a nerdy lost soul into an '80s glamour goth, backed by performances that understood the assignment.