After being brutalized by a corrupt small-town sheriff and her gang, Lisa is left for dead in the woods. There she is bitten by a werewolf. With her new abilities, Lisa decides to exact her revenge.
I Am Lisa is directed by Patrick Rea (Arbor Demon, Nailbiter) and is the feature-film debut of writer Eric Winkler. This film combines elements of a creature feature with a revenge flick. Lisa is a woman forced to return to her small hometown after the death of a family member. Unfortunately, this town is run by a corrupt sheriff, the sheriff’s daughter, and their underlings. When Lisa attempts to stand up against these small-town villains, she is attacked and dumped in the woods to die. A bite from a wolf gives her new lycanthropic abilities. One by one, Lisa hunts down those who tried to kill her. The film is quite suspenseful and manages to build that suspense by putting the characters in one tense situation after the other. A revenge film on its own is already a thrilling watch, but by adding the werewolf element, Winkler and Rea create something more horrifying.
Revenge films are usually pretty straight-forward, albeit highly entertaining and cathartic to watch. Not only does I Am Lisa stand out by adding werewolves into the mix, but Winkler also gives viewers a different werewolf mythos. The rules in the world he created are different than your typical lycan story. At first this mythos is unclear, but as the plot progresses the audience is able to better understand the werewolf lore. The only drawback to the plot is with the attack on Lisa. While she is mostly beaten up, it is also clear that the one man in the group sexually assaults her. While I appreciate the choice not to show the sexual assault, it seems odd that it’s not really acknowledged in the aftermath. This is something that would likely have a profound impact on Lisa, yet that impact isn’t felt as she goes on her quest for revenge. It seems that it should either have been a larger part of her journey or it shouldn’t have been part of the attack at all.
The performances are somewhat uneven, but for the most part they are enjoyable. Kristen Vaganos (Lock Down Lover, Obsessed With the Babysitter) stars as the titular Lisa. For most of the film, Vaganos makes Lisa an underdog that the audience can really root for. Her performance is generally strong, but in some of the scenes where Lisa is beaten by the antagonists, her cries of pain don’t come across as very real. Some of the most memorable performances come from the villains, especially Manon Halliburton (The Sopranos, Three Blind Saints) as Sheriff Huckins. Huckins is a truly despicable excuse for a human being, and Halliburton shines in the role and makes it incredibly easy to hate her character.
Considering this is a low-budget indie film, the artistic elements of I Am Lisa are quite good. By coming up with their own werewolf mythos, the filmmakers were allowed to show two more simplified stages. One is a full, regular-looking wolf. The second is a small transformation in the face created with practical effects, colored contacts, teeth, and of course sharp claws. While the werewolf prosthetics almost look more like the vampires from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they are still well done. It is a smart way to avoid having to create an expensive werewolf transformation scene that still makes sense with the plot. Another interesting artistic element is the music. For the most part, the music is barely noticeable in the background while watching the film. Although, certain scenes include music that doesn’t quite fit with what’s happening and can take one out of the moment.
I Am Lisa delivers a stand-out revenge film with a lycanthropic bite. Rea and Winkler create a film that combines two subgenres into one cohesive story. The plot keeps the audience at the edge of their seat by generating thrills and gives genre fans a different kind of werewolf story. While Lisa’s sexual assault is glossed over in a way that makes one wonder if it was necessary to include at all and some performances could have been stronger, there is enough goodness to make the film entertaining. For a low-budget film, they were really able to deliver a film many horror fans will enjoy.
OVERALL RATING: 7/10