I Am Lisa is small-town lycanthropy horror sizzling in the middle of a revenge film. The film, written by Eric Winkler and directed by Patrick Rea, has some of the standard elements often seen in both werewolf and revenge films. Town sheriff that lets their family-run amok terrorizing the town? Check. However, the unique quality stems from who the villains and heroes are in the film. The sheriff and her posse abuse Lisa (Kristen Vaganos) and leave her for dead in the woods. After a werewolf bites her, Lisa tries to balance her need for revenge and raw meat with her humanity.
The acting will leave audiences rooting for Lisa and Sheriff Deborah Huckins’ (Manon Halliburton) downfall. Lisa has already been through a lot in her life, and she knows the uselessness of the sheriff and Deputy Huckins (Chris Bylsma). The build-up is surprising. We see the conflict between Lisa and the sheriff’s daughter Jessica (Carmen Anello), but we don’t realize the extent of this family’s evil. Not only are they jerks, but they’re active criminals that use their position of authority to protect themselves.
Cast Is Different & Interesting
It’s refreshing to see a horror film with characters that are queer and women front and center. In most horror, the victim is a woman and the villain a man. The hero is either a man avenging a woman or the victim who goes so far in her quest for vengeance that questions arise about how far is too far. That’s not present here. There’s no need for graphic, elaborate kills to make a movie good. The proof is in the meat. And in I Am Lisa’s case, it’s seared and served up with a character-driven revenge story.
The dialogue combined with the acting is compelling. It’s witty, funny, and delivered in a way that doesn’t yank the audience out of the world. The relationship between Lisa and her friend Sam (Jennifer Seward) has a beautiful story of love and friendship at the center of this wolfy revenge film. Sam strives to keep Lisa connected to her humanity. Viewers will adore their movie nights where they hang out watching horror films at home or in a theater. Carmen Anello as the sheriff’s horrid daughter Jessica brings adds to the character beyond mere villain. She’s a villain but her humanity still shines through in her eyes. Of course, this doesn’t earn her forgiveness.
Practical Effects and Gnarly Music
Lousy CGI is not present here. The use of practical F/X adds to the gritty, raw quality the film oozes. There’s little more disappointing than when you’re engrossed in a movie, and then poor visual effects or CGI pull you right out. It’s clear the image, ghost, monster, etc., didn’t exist on camera but made in post. It harms the film as suspension of disbelief can only go so far. Here the practical F/X is well done. They add to the film’s thrills as Lisa transforms with creepy eyes and ghastly claws. Lisa is the manifestation of “I am woman. Hear me roar!”
The music is perfect for this film. There is a hip, current quality but blended with the more retro music stylings from older horror-action films. The synth style and dramatic guitar are like Tangerine Dream’s Firestarter soundtrack, and the music from Ginger Snaps had a fiery, lycanthrope baby. This is the music you listen to on a day of relaxing while your vinyl record spins with your mood. To quote Joey, Jeffy, or Jaime from Daria, it sounds “really alternative.” The music is full of suspense and creepiness but simultaneously has viewers fired up for what is coming.
Better Than Many Blockbusters
People outside of white men can carry horror films with ease. It’s past time other stories got their chances to shine. I Am Lisa adds to the growing list of horror films that mix girls, queerness, and transformative embraces of ourselves. And it’s all delivered in an entertaining, exciting horror package.
This film has a better story than many mainstream horror films. It takes a story we’ve all heard and makes it fresh by adding distinct characters that are not the usual villain/hero fare. Once I Am Lisa sinks its teeth and hooks into audiences, there’s no escape. But really, who would want to? I Am Lisa is a dreadful fable that flips the hero/villain, in a female-led cast that devours the story.