I Am Lisa (2020) [FrightFest 2020]

Following a brutal beating, Lisa is left for dead nearby her town by her assailants. While in these woods, Lisa encounters something else and comes out of her ordeal with interesting side effects.

Written by Eric Winkler and directed by Patrick Rea, I Am Lisa is an interesting take on what one might meet in the woods mixed with small town power struggles and abuses. Here the characters are what the film is all about, putting the horror aspect as a second priority in what is definitely a horror film. While the central situation with Lisa is definitely horror, the doings in the town as well as the actions of some of those in charge are much more horrific. The film works in a slow burn matter, layering the happenings in the town and to Lisa before really unleashing its surprises and letting Lisa really be all that she can be.

Playing the lead of Lisa is Kristen Vaganos who gives her character the right amount of vulnerability and strength in a mix that changes as she changes along with the story. Her work here is great and watching her go through things as Lisa connects the character with the viewer, thus really selling everything that goes on and happens to and around her. Playing the evil town Sheriff is Manon Halliburton who seems to take a high level of glee in playing evil and mean. She goes all out and while it works for most of her scenes, a few times it does come off as too much or a bit cartoony which unfortunately works against her character and the scenes she’s in. In terms of shining performance, Kristen Vaganos is fantastic in this film and she does have all the spotlight in her scenes, which works perfectly considering everything.

The special effects here are a lot of fun while somewhat minimalistic due to the low budget, but they do make the most out of what they have. There aren’t too many scenes with major effects set-ups, but when there are, they are on point. There is a scene in particular when Lisa is being beaten and tortured that just makes you cringe in the best way a horror film can hope for. The effects on that scene are just perfect and the way it’s pulled off is just about the best that could have happened here. Another aspect that may seem minimal, but has a large effect on the film and its viewer are the contact lenses worn by Lisa, these are well-designed and bring something new to the look she has while wearing them. All these effects and lenses are part of the great work done by effects artist Jake Johnson.

I Am Lisa is a slow-ish burn that works as it builds characters and a situation that leads to a place that is actually interesting. The story has ideas that work throughout and the way things are handled and developed are part of why this one works. Not wanting to give too much away as the film is brand new on the festival circuit, there is something new here in how the sub-genre it fits into is handled and that makes it a fresh film with a fresh take on it. The acting by lead actress Vaganos is something that not only sells the story and its horror, but also brings the viewer in so that they can be truly invested by the time the film gets to its main point. I Am Lisa is a quality horror film that should be viewed in a nice dark room with people who love this type of cinema.