I Am Lisa Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Directed by Patrick Rea
Written by Eric Winkler
2020 92 minutes, Not Yet Rated.
Frightfest World Premiere on Friday 28th August
Kristen Vaganos as Lisa
Jennifer Seward as Sam
Manon Halliburton as Sheriff Deborah Huckins
Carmen Anello as Jessica Huckins
Chris Bylsma as Deputy Nick Huckins
I Am Lisa, directed by Indie filmmaker Patrick Rea (Nailbiter) and written by the award-winning columnist Eric Winkler, is the story of Lisa (Vaganos), a young woman who is assaulted, beaten and left for dead in the woods by corrupt Sheriff ‘Deb’ and her literal family of goons. Not having the good manners to simply die, Lisa is instead bitten by a wolf and so begins a story of transformation and revenge.
The film starts out with the directional panache, and feel, of more modern horrors such as It Follows, with sweeping crane shots of a somewhat eerie small American town and a vintage Carpenter-esque synth score.
When we first meet the titular Lisa, played by the diminutive and talented Kristen Vaganos (Mommy Would Never Hurt You), she is working in a bookstore where she is hounded (sorry) by the Sheriff’s drug-dealing daughter Jessica (Anello) and her gang. Shaking off the events of the day, she goes out with bestie Sam (Seward) to see the Vincent Price classic The Last Man on Earth, based on the classic Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. When Jessica returns to the store the next day, to return a book she had stolen, she harasses Lisa again, this time kissing her against her will. Lisa then makes the ‘mistake’ of reporting the incident to the sadistic Deb, played by Manon Halliburton- channelling Jim Siedow’s ‘Old Man’ from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This results in Lisa being horribly beaten by Deb’s deputy Nick (Bylsma), Jessica and her friends while Deb looks on from behind the two-way mirror.
This latest entry into the ever-popular pack of werewolf films takes its name from the aforementioned I Am Legend, where the main character is the last human alive fighting for survival against vampires. Here Lisa, the victim of abuse, is made to feel alone against something far worse than vampires, a corrupt and deliberately deaf institution in a plot that feels so painfully relevant. For the most part this duality of narrative is dealt with very well by Rea, especially in the first half when character’s motivations are revealed.
The film itself is subtle and played very well, particularly by Vaganos – who is able to switch from victim to attacker unnervingly well when the story changes from abuse to more of a position of empowerment. It of course owes a lot to revenge films such as I Spit on Your Grave as well as genre films such as Ginger Snaps, and at its best is often able to come very close to the shocking and/or empowering moments that those films are often cited for. However, I Am Lisa, for all of its plus points, and there are more than a few, can’t quite take the obvious passion behind the camera and reproduce it on the screen, with the film staying in one gear for almost its entire 92 minute run time.
There is a lot to take in, but by the time the plot takes off we aren’t really given enough time to revel in Lisa’s revenge. This is possibly a deliberate attempt to focus more on the trauma of victimization rather than the gratuitous effects borne of it but, in any case, it falls a little flat. There is also too often a struggle in tone, with bestie Sam sometimes playing for laughs that just feel out of place and awkward.
Despite the serious narrative strands going on here, there is also some fun to be had. Lisa’s more wolfy scenes are great and a good old montage involving her new cravings is one of the more welcome tonal shifts. I Am Lisa is certainly worth a look and there is a lot to respect about a film that, although a werewolf tale on the surface, deals with issues that end up delivering the real bite.
This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.