Lisa (1990) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • 14-year-old Lisa is raised by her unmarried mother Katherine who overprotects her by forbidding her to date until she's 16. In despair, Lisa and schoolmate Wendy make up a game that consists of inferring attractive men's phone numbers from their car ID and calling them anonymously. Lisa begins a passionate phone relationship with the last man, the handsome Richard...unaware that he is a sex maniac and a psycho killer..

  • 14-year-old Lisa and her friend Wendy follow handsome men and manage to find out their names and numbers from the license plates. Lisa is eager to start dating, but her mother doesn't think she's old enough, and doesn't want her to make the same mistakes she did as a teenager. One night while grocery-shopping, Lisa runs into the handsome Richard and finds out his number from his license plate. She tells Wendy she could fall in love with him, mostly to rebel against not being allowed to date. She starts calling Richard, disguising her voice. She's just flirting, but Richard goes from enjoying their conversations to wanting to know more about her, to wanting to meet her, to becoming obsessed with her. She thinks it's harmless because she doesn't know that she has attracted the Candlelight Killer, who stalks young women, leaves messages on their answering machines..


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The movie opens with a single woman coming home from work. She plays her messages until one says, "I'm here in your apartment and Im going to kill you." Before she can react, a gloved hand covers her mouth. A man (D.W. Moffett) forces her into her bedroom where a romantic scene with wine and candles is set. The "Candlelight Killer," a serial murderer working L.A., is about to claim another victim.

    After the credits run, the scene switches to a Catholic high school where 14-year-old Lisa (Staci Keanan) and her best friend Wendy (Tanya Fenmore) dash into the girls' room after school to change out of their school uniforms. They have made a game of tracking handsome single men (adults in their 20s and 30s) and getting pictures of them for their fantasy scrapbook. Today they dash up a man while he is leaving his underground garage in his convertible. Wendy leans in on the driver's side next to the victim while Lisa snaps their picture. They run off leaving the perplexed driver behind.

    Back at Wendy's house they are putting the new photo in their scrapbook when Wendy gets a call. A boy she likes has invited her out on a date and his friend wants to double with Lisa. Lisa wants to go, but her mother will not allow her to date until she is 16.

    Lisa's mother Katherine (Cheryl Ladd) is a single working mom who owns a flower shop. She is overprotective with Lisa as she herself got pregnant as a teen and was disowned by her parents when she chose to keep the baby. She won't even let Lisa know she has a boyfriend, for fear that Lisa will get attached to him, then be hurt if/when they break up.

    That evening while preparing dinner Lisa broaches the question of the date, but her mother refuses to budge on the issue. Lisa then volunteers to pick up some rice for dinner at the local store. On the way back she is startled by a barking dog and literally runs into the "Candlelight Killer" (who is in the neighborhood after doing another murder). He is nice to her and helps her pick up her grocery bag. Lisa is so impressed by him and his handsome countenance that she copies down the plate number on his SUV before he drives away.

    Lisa has learned how to lower her voice to sound like an adult and uses this skill to flirt with a DMV agent to get the man's name, phone number, and address from his license plate. His name is Richard. Lisa calls Richard from the phone in her room. Pretending to be someone he knows, who does not want to tell him her name, she flirts with him using lines her mother has told her a customer used on her. When Richard flirts back she becomes hooked on making calls to him.

    Lisa and Wendy stake out his Richard's apartment house and follow him as he walks to work. He is apparently the manager of a fancy restaurant.

    The next day Lisa tries to hang out with Wendy, but she is busy with her new boyfriend. Instead Lisa walks to Richard's apartment house. When the garage gate opens to let out a car, Lisa sneaks into get a better look at Richard's SUV. When the car is accidentally unlocked by another resident with an identical remote code, Lisa climbs in the car and fantasies what it would be like to be on a date with Richard. She panics though when she realizes she is locked in the car and Richard is coming. Hiding in the backseat she escapes when he stops to pick up his dry cleaning.

    The brush with Richard further ignites Lisa's imagination. In additional calls to Richard she tells him she met him at the restaurant and that that her name is Lisa. She is flattered when Richard tells her he thinks that she must be beautiful.

    Wendy's father (Jeffrey Tambor) invites Lisa to join his family for a weekend in the mountains. Katherine vetoes this as she already suspects that Wendy's having a boyfriend is giving Lisa ideas. Lisa and her mom fight over this. The next day Katherine relents and calls Wendy's dad to say Lisa can go.

    Lisa and Katherine decide to have a mother-daughter night out and Lisa picks Richard's restaurant as their destination. Wendy has given Lisa the idea of matching her mom up with Richard, so Lisa calls Richard telling him she will be at the restaurant that night wearing white (which is the color her mother is wearing). Richard is at the restaurant and greets Katherine, but when she doesn't react he isn't sure that she is the right person. Lisa, however, puts a note addressed to him with the check that says, "Now you have seen me" and adds a lipstick kiss. Katherine paid for dinner with a credit card, so Richard now has a name and an address.

    The meal ends in a fight when Lisa tells her mom she found her birth control pills. Unaware that her mother has a regular boyfriend, she accuses her of sleeping around while not even letting Lisa date. When they get home Katherine grounds Lisa and removes her phone from her room.

    The next day after school Lisa leaves for the mountains with Wendy's family after she realizes that Wendy's parents don't know that she's grounded. When Lisa does not come home Katherine figures out what she has done and calls her. She decides not to tell Wendy's parents what Lisa has done, but tells Lisa they will need a long talk when she gets home.

    The next day Lisa calls Richard from the mountains. Richard tells her he has discovered her real name: Katherine. Lisa, shocked that Richard has found out her mother's name (and, presumably, phone number) and calls her mom and tells her that if she gets a call from somebody named Richard, it's just a guy from school making crank calls and she should ignore him.

    Lisa is due home from the mountains about the same time Katherine gets home from the shop the next day. Katherine plays her messages and gets the "I'm in your apartment and will kill you" message, but thinks it's the crank call Lisa warned her about. Hearing somebody in the apartment she assumes it is Lisa, but it is really Richard who overpowers her.

    When Lisa gets home she is attacked by Richard. Richard has figured out Lisa's game and found her scrapbook. He knocks Katherine unconscious and drags Lisa to a bedroom romantically set up with his usual wine and candles. But before he can assault her, Katherine, who has apparently recovered, drives a knife into his shoulder from behind. Richard is further injured when Lisa maces him. The women lock themselves in Lisa's bedroom, but too late remember that Katherine removed the phone so they can't call the police. They decide to open the window and hide. When Richard busts down the door he assumes they have gone out the window and rushes to it. Katherine then uses a baseball bat to hit him from behind and send him out the window, falling several floors to his death. Relieved to be alive, mother and daughter collapse in each other's arms.

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