September 9, 2019 Depraved (Movie Review)
Film Director Larry Fessenden is no stranger to the Horror genre. Head of indie production house Glass Eye Pix, he has introduced the world to many underground Horror gems such as 2001’s Wendigo, 2009’s The House of the Devil, as well as 2011’s The Innkeepers. Now, Fessenden introduces a deliciously stylized and disturbing update of the age-old tale of of Frankenstein with his new film Depraved.
Initially making its world premiere in March 2019 at the IFC Center’s WhatTheFest?!, it promptly led to IFC Midnight acquiring the U.S. rights to Fessenden’s film. Now set to hit theaters on Friday, September 13th, Depraved follows Henry (David Call:The Sinner series, The Magician series), an ex-army medic suffering from PTSD from his time as an army medic. Haunted by the death he witnessed overseas; he now holes himself up in his Brooklyn apartment-turned-laboratory where he works feverishly on his new project – creating life in the form of piecing together body parts.
The opening scene introduces Alex (Owen Campbell: The Americans series, The Miseducation of Cameron Post 2018), who is having a post-coital spat with his girlfriend Lucy (Chloë Levine: The Transfiguration 2016, The Ranger 2018) about the prospect of having kids. Soon after, we see Alex on a walk in the middle of the night when he’s attacked and stabbed repeatedly. We then see him, lying in what looks like a makeshift hospital room covered in scars, looking completely unrecognizable thanks to our friendly-neighborhood surgeon, Henry.
After procuring a brain from Alex, Henry is able to complete his creation, which he names Adam (Alex Breaux: Katie Says Goodbye 2016, Bushwick 2017). Henry tells Adam he is his “father” and soon takes on the role as his caregiver. Henry eventually realizes that bringing Adam to life was the easiest part, whereas teaching him how to live and exist in this world would prove to be troublesome. In fact, the most engaging and introspective scenes in the film involve the relationship between Henry and Adam. Between reading children’s books, introducing him to pop culture, and having rousing ping pong battles, we see Adam’s understanding of the modern world, as well as their dependency, grow.
Henry’s façade of the perfect creation is briefly shattered when Liz (Ana Kayne: Uncertainty 2008, Another Earth 2011), a face from the past and the voice of reason shows up. Reminding him that while he brought Adam to life, he did so by destroying the life of another. The illusion is further obliterated when his partner Polidori (Joshua Leonard: The Blair Witch Project 1999, Bates Motel series) appears. Polidori, no doubt named after John William Polidori, an author and friend of Mary Shelley, definitely appears to be the more diabolical of the two.
Polidori is heavily involved in pharmaceuticals, attempting to manipulate Henry into selling the infamous red pills that helped him bring Adam to life and keep him alive. These pills also seem to affect Adam’s mental stability, presumably keeping him docile. While Henry’s efforts seem more honorable, at least to him, Polidori decides to treat our Franken-Adam to a night of debauchery. Introducing him to a world of booze, sex, and drugs. This is the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back as this essentially strips away at Adam’s child-like innocence.
In a similar fashion to the original Frankenstein, Adam is an unstable creature, trying to navigate his way through a world in which he truly does not belong. It’s heartbreaking to witness as he learns about his true origins and slowly starts to realize that everything he once knew was a lie. It is a tale about the delicate balance between life and death. That said, there is a harmonious balance between the two that is ultimately severed by Adam’s very existence, and as he gradually understands that we are faced with the task of questioning mortality as a whole.
Overall, Depraved works as a satire about humanity and our own selfish needs and wants and the lengths that some will go to reach success, no matter what the cost. Presenting Adam in a more humanized fashion than the original Boris Karloff version of the creature, ditching the green-tinged skin in favor of a handsome, stitched-up pale body; an aspect well-done by the dynamic team of Peter Gerner (American Exorcist 2018, The Wolf Hour 2019) and Brian Spears (V/H/S 2012, Jessica Jones series).
All these factors in mind, the conclusion of Depraved is unsatisfying in the sense that there is no happy ending. Adam doesn’t get any peace, and Henry is forced to confront his own demons all while trying to care for Adam and his growing self-awareness. A chilling look at humanity, gives this film 3 out of 5 stars.