(director: Zelda Williams; screenwriter: Diablo Cody; cinematographer: Paula Huidobro; editor: Brad Turner; music: Isabella Summers; cast: Kathyrn Newton (Lisa Swallows), Cole Sprouse (The Creature), Carla Guigino (Janet Swallows), Liza Soberano (Taffy Swallows), Joe Chrest (Dale Swallows), Henry Eikenberry (Michael Trent); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Mason Novick, Diablo Cody; Focus Features; 2024)

“Shallow and freaky.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The actress-turned-director Zelda Williams (“Kappa Kappa Die”), daughter of Robin, directs this shallow and freaky 80s retro horror/romance/comedy story, a mashup that brings back to life the monster Frankenstein legend of Mary Shelley with a love twist. It’s a silly, derivative pic of the classic story, and it’s written without an edge by Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody. It’s not hipster enough, or clever enough, or grounded enough to make sense as a modern-day love story.

The sad-eyed Lisa Swallows (Kathyrn Newton) attends a new high school in the suburbs of Louisiana in 1989. She’s grieving the loss of her mom, who was brutally killed by a masked killer. She doesn’t reveal this to her fellow students, and won’t let her new well-meaning but shallow cheerleader stepsister Taffy (Liza Soberano) cheer her up or seek support from her dad (Joe Chrest).

While visiting the local cemetery every day, Lisa becomes enamored over the headstone of a corpse (Cole Sprouse, his part has no dialogue) from the Victorian era.

One day a lightning storm unearths and reanimates the corpse’s head from her favorite headstone, who is missing body parts. Thereby Lisa brings the handsome head home and hides it in her room from Taffy and her wicked stepmom (Carla Guigino), while creating a new body for it.

It’s a goof watching Lisa as an axe-wielding scientist. But when the story tries to be a coming-of-age love story, it stagnates as there’s little chemistry between the lovers.

It’s too creepy to be a hot love story, and is not funny enough to be a comedy (don’t ask about the weak dialogue!). It seems more influenced by early Tim Burton horror rather than the literary-minded Mary Shelley version.

REVIEWED ON 2/14/2024  GRADE: C+