To be frank, Lisa Swallows only makes it through her school day because of her half-sister, Taffy. I mean, Taffy’s so popular and nice. She’s always trying to give Lisa a bit of makeup or clothing advice. And she strives to pull Lisa into parties and to help her actually enjoy her high school years. After all, she knows what Lisa has suffered through.
You see, Lisa’s biological mom was murdered by an axe killer. Lisa witnessed it. And the poor girl was so traumatized that she was unable to speak for months after that horrific event. So, Taffy does her best to fix things.
Lisa, however, isn’t really into parties, clothes or high school. In fact, there’s something about graveyards that calls to her. She’ll sit for hours reading poetry, leaning up against one headstone or another. In fact, there’s one particular grave marker—sporting the handsome marble bust of the grave’s dead occupant—that appeals to her most.
After one failed party attempt, Lisa even ends up at that gravesite wishing she could be with that unknown occupant. And then, as a thunderstorm rages, Lisa meanders sighingly home.
That’s when a muddy, worm-eaten corpse shows up at Lisa’s house. Only it’s walking. And grunting. You know how storms and wishes can be.
Lisa quickly realizes that this shambling dead man is the guy from that grave. (Don’t ask me how she knows. Maybe it’s the smell of the mud encasing his moldy body?) And even though her “wish” was intended to mean she’d rather be dead than dealing with her lousy life, Lisa decides to go with it. So she cleans this creature guy up and keeps him in her closet.
Hey, love has its ways.
The only problem is that the creature here is missing some body parts: a hand, an ear, and, ahem, other intimate bits.
They’ll have to work on fixing that!
There aren’t a lot of thumbs-up moments in this pic, as you might have surmised.
Taffy, at least, cares sincerely for Lisa. (Though Tabby does kind of backstab her later on.) And, in turn, Lisa expresses her love and thanks for Taffy’s kind efforts.
As mentioned above, it’s the combination of a wish and a lightning strike that apparently bring a corpse back to life. That enlivening event is left unexplained, though Lisa and the creature use short-circuit electric zaps to further vitalize the dead guy’s rotting body and several stitched-on parts.
Someone looks at an overgrown graveyard and says, “It’s not Christian for a graveyard to be left like this.”
Lisa’s boss notes that she never gets a date, “Probably because she’s so flat-chested.” When Lisa begins dressing more seductively, however, Taffy crows crudely that the school will be on the way to “boner town.”
Lisa goes a party and has her chest groped by a drunk guy pretending to help her. He then places her hand on his crotch. Later, the creature does something similar, and Lisa realizes that he has nothing in his pants. They then, ahem, procure and graft a penis to his body. (The stitching is offscreen, though we do see a shadow of the organ at one point.)
After a drug-fueled dream, Lisa wakes with her hand shoved down the front of her sleep shorts. Taffy sees this and tells her, “Don’t worry, everybody does it.” Lisa references masturbation several other times. And when the creature discovers her vibrator and massages her back with it, Lisa seductively mentions that there are other uses for it and offers to show him. Then, offscreen, we hear her cry out in pleasure.
Lisa spots a hickey on Taffy’s neck after Taffy had a night out. She later catches Taffy in bed with a guy. The two are under the covers but the guy’s bare chest is exposed, and Taffy is wearing a bra. Someone then pulls back the covers and exposes the guy (offscreen) but we never see his fully naked form, only the shadow of a part that’s lopped off.
Lisa straddles the creature in bed. And it’s implied that they have sex. (The act is illustrated by an animated movie of two characters riding a rocket.) Elsewhere, Two teens kiss passionately and grope each other while laying on a couch. Taffy bares some cleavage. Lisa tells the creature that she isn’t afraid of being arrested or dying but, and she tells it, “I won’t go as a virgin.”
Lisa’s stepmom, Janice, wears a tight, formfitting exercise leotard.
The film invites viewers to laugh off macabre moments as people are killed and, in essence, butchered for parts.
For instance, a woman gets hit from behind by a heavy object. She falls to the floor and blood pools around her head. Her ear is snipped off with a pair of scissors. Then her body is wrapped and tossed in a hole. A teen guy’s hand is lopped off with an axe. Then as the blood-spattered guy tries to run off screaming, he’s hit in the back by the thrown weapon. A naked guy is hacked at by that same axe and has his genitals lopped off. None of the actual amputating moments are directly on camera. Each is just off screen or implied through shadow. Though we do see the connected blood splatter and splash.
Lisa then stitches all of those parts to the creature. We see those “procedures,” except for the genital reattachment.
A female cop and an old man are both attacked and subdued. Someone is trapped in a raging fire. We see this person later wrapped in layers of gauze. We’re shown an animated, shadow-box story of someone’s death in a tornado.
Lightning forcefully strikes the ground. Someone smashes a mirror with a fist.
We hear one s-word and several uses each of “a–,” “b–ch,” “h—” and “d–n.”
God’s and Jesus’ names are both misused a total of a dozen times (and three of those pair God’s name with “d–n.”)
Taffy takes Lisa to a party that she says will have a keg of beer and some pilfered nitrous oxide. Teens drink beer. Lisa is given a drink laced with PCP. She staggers around with blurred perception and distorted vision after drinking it. Later, Lisa drinks from a small bottle of sherry. Janice drinks a martini. Lisa references a specific radio channel that plays music for “beer sluts.”
The screenplay scatters toilet humor gags throughout the dialogue, ranging from giggles about menstrual flow and contraceptive practices, to exclamations over gross expelled fluids.
For instance, Lisa repeatedly blanches at the green goop that dribbles or gushes out of the creature’s body. “When you cry it smells like a hot toilet at a carnival!” she moans at one point.
Lisa lies repeatedly to cover up her wrongdoing and murder.
The Diablo Cody penned Lisa Frankenstein is supposed to be an acerbic, dark satire of old Tim Burton pics and moronic teen comedies from the ‘80s. It’s supposed to chortle over consequence-free murder and butchery; drunken sexual groping; illicit teen drug use; and schoolgirl carnal desires. All of those things are treated as one-liner fodder for laughs.
Frankly, though, all of those movie elements offer plenty of reasons to turn away from this pic like a monster faced with a blazing torch.
And if that’s not enough to scare you off, here’s one last reason to run (don’t walk) away from the box office on this one: This movie is terrible. Lisa Frankenstein feels like a pile of cutting room film strips stitched together by rough cords, but little logic. Which, I suppose, is fitting, if unwatchable.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.