Werewolf revenge thriller I Am Lisa is coming to Redbox January 5th. Read on for a deep dive into a town with a serious werewolf problem.
Werewolf movies aren’t made nearly as much as their popular friends the vampire or the zombie. So when one does come along, they’re usually worth a watch. Tending to be closer to the B-movie world of schlocky violence, low budgets and basic plots, the werewolf stays close to a simple type of horror that is always appealing.
I Am Lisa combines two familiar types of B-movies: the werewolf and the female revenge story. While not a perfect movie by any means, it has undeniable appeal for those nostalgic for a less refined horror film like those from the ‘70s or ‘80s such as I Spit on Your Grave or low budget creature features.
I Am Lisa, aptly named, follows the story of Lisa (Kristen Vaganos), a girl who just moved back to her small town after graduating college to take over her grandmother’s used bookstore which the woman left to her in her will.
The town sheriff’s daughter, Jessica (Carmen Anello), a vicious bully who went to school with Lisa, comes onto her and then attacks her when Lisa objects. After asking her best friend and roommate Sam (Jennifer Seward) for advice, Lisa decides to take the issue to the incredibly corrupt sheriff (Manon Halliburton).
The sheriff immediately belittles her and takes offense at Lisa trying to report her daughter. She assaults her, then lets Jessica, her posse, and a deputy beat Lisa up, sexually assault her, and leave her for dead in the forest for the wolves to eat. A wolf does bite her, but instead of killing her it turns her into a werewolf, empowering her to seek revenge against her attackers.
Directed by Patrick Rea (Arbor Demon, Nailbiter) and written by Eric Winkler, I Am Lisa won’t be considered one of the great werewolf movies, but it does provide an entertaining, fun little ride.
The characters, especially the “villains”, are extremely shallow, but I wouldn’t call them flat. Despite their hollow motivations, there is a lot to like. The baddies are a particular highlight. Even though their actions and reactions were outrageously over the top, they really brought this cool intensity to their roles and are the definition of “fun to hate.”
All the majors characters in this film are women except for the sheriff’s deputy (Chris Bylsma), an oafish cruel lackey to the even crueler sheriff, which makes for some interesting interplay and a diverse array of feminine personalities.
Lisa is a rather boring, stereotypical character that you might find in a film like this, but she has some good aggressive moments that the actress actually portrays pretty well.
Her friend Sam is probably the most forgettable of the main cast of characters but she has a wholesome friendship with Lisa and her role in the climax of the film as motivation for Lisa’s character is tense, if not in a very predictable way.
Both the sheriff and her daughter are more interesting characters, despite their relentless and seemingly unmotivated cruelty towards Lisa and what seems like the entire town. Anello’s acting as the repressed lesbian town bully is really fun to watch and she brings a great energy whenever she’s in a scene. Her mother is similar, but instead of angry intensity like Jessica, the sheriff’s cruelty almost seems like it’s something that amuses her. It’s how she entertains herself and passes the time, and the same is true for her deputy.
One of the biggest problems throughout this film is that the chain of events is just ridiculous, such as Jessica’s reaction to Lisa’s rejection and the sheriff literally committing murder because someone was angry that her daughter kissed them. That’s an absurd escalation but seems on par with typical B-movie plots so it’s forgivable to a degree.
In a way, the film is about a vengeful woman takes down the entire police institution of oppression over her town, which is not a bad message. Modern sensibilities seep into this plot, especially as the characterization of the cops as literal menaces to their town.
Their complete disregard for Lisa insinuates that they don’t do a lot of helping around town, and the Sheriff’s deputy is a frequent visitor of what looks like a town brothel where he harasses women. This is a classic throwback to ‘70s crooked cops and the cops of I Am Lisa act this well.
The whole werewolf concept is iffy. The filmmakers chose a simpler-design for the creature, which I think helps in terms of reducing the cheesiness with probably very little budget for advanced werewolf effects, but the “rules” of the film seem haphazard and Lisa almost seems more vampire than werewolf.
In I Am Lisa, werewolves can “half turn” anytime but go through a more intense transformation when the full moon comes. This is a pretty odd interpretation of the werewolf but it works for Lisa. She can enact her revenge by turning at will to unleash some havoc. What is cool about her half-transformations is that each time she “turns,” a new werewolf feature is added, starting with eyes, then nails, then teeth. While I wasn’t completely on board with this design, I like the gradual buildup of power.
The kills in this are a solid “alright.” Some of them are kind of cool and some boring but still bloody, and very much imitative of some ‘80s kills (I see you, Jason X). There was one effect that made me cringe: silver nails hammered into someone’s hands. That was pretty impressive.
While this film suffers from an overall amateurish feel, the cinematography is decent and the score is pretty good. The editing can sometimes be painfully slow, but the “look” of the film is cool.
The female actors felt a little overdone in costume and makeup, especially Lisa who seems to have time to straighten her hair after being left for dead in the woods. Maybe she wanted to slay, as she slayed?
The sense of direction feels strong despite the shortcomings, and while the writing is littered with questions, the dialogue stays comedic which doesn’t completely make up for the plot problems, but it does help.
I Am Lisa has a lot of faults, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer to horror fans. As a werewolf movie it’s so-so, but as a throwback to the ‘80s female revenge thriller it’s enjoyable and could be a good film for a fun night with friends.
I Am Lisa comes to Redbox on January 5th. You can also pick it up inside Walmart and Best Buy and most VOD platforms starting March 16. Check it out if a straightforward, pseudo-’80s female-driven revenge thriller with some werewolf lore injected in sounds like your kind of romp. Check out the trailer below!