Diablo Cody knows a thing or two about writing a killer horror-comedy. While 2009’s Jennifer’s Body – penned by Cody, and directed by Karyn Kusama – received a mixed reception on initial release, it’s now hailed as a ‘00s classic that was largely mis-marketed and misunderstood at the time. And now, nearly 15 years later, that blend of macabre thrills, sardonic wit, and outsized teen emotions is set to come together again in Cody’s latest film. She’s back in horror-comedy territory with the Zelda Williams-directed Lisa Frankenstein, spinning Mary Shelley’s gothic monument into an ‘80s-set tale of young loss and love, as Kathryn Newton’s grieving Lisa finds an emotional connection with… er, a grunting, reanimated corpse (Cole Sprouse).
As Lisa fashions her undead beau into her dream guy (with a little help from an electrifying tanning bed), Cody wanted to flip a trope that’s been prevalent in Hollywood for decades now. “It was funny to me how the whole Frankenstein narrative was co-opted in the ‘80s by movies like Weird Science where they were like, ‘What if we could create the perfect woman?’ You see that theme across genres, and I felt like nobody was making a ‘building a man’ movie except The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I love, and which we reference in the film,” she tells Empire in the new Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes issue.
Just as Jennifer’s Body splashed demonic kills over a tale of shifting adolescent friendships and romantic entanglements, Lisa Frankenstein taps into real feelings – just, with a zombie aristocrat and a pile of bodies. “I thought: ‘What if a teenage girl had the ultimate sensitive guy who can’t talk? What would that look like and how would we animate him?’,” says Cody of developing the story. “Then once I thought of [a faulty] tanning bed, we were off to the races.” The horror-comedy genre is about to get a fresh bolt of energy.
Read Empire’s full Lisa Frankenstein story – talking to Diablo Cody and Zelda Williams about their filmmaking collaboration – in the February 2024 issue, on sale Thursday 21 December. Pre-order a copy online here. Lisa Frankenstein comes to UK cinemas from 1 March.