Depraved (2019)

A scene from Larry Fessenden's 'Depraved' a modern-day version of Frankenstein 

200 years after 18-year old Mary Shelley wrote “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” comes the latest interpretation by independent horror virtuoso Larry Fessenden.

The modern-day take on the legendary monster begins with a talented army medic (David Call) who stitches together his creation in a loft in Brooklyn (best place to reanimate a corpse and then go for a bike ride). Alex Breaux, a theater actor, filmmaker, and former Harvard football player, plays the monster with the benevolence of a child who becomes a product of his environment while Joshua Leonard becomes the fable’s real villain as the greedy financer employed by Big Pharma.

In Shelly’s novel, the monster is quoted as saying "I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel" which Fessenden adapts for his screenplay as Henry (David Call), an army medic suffering from PTSD, names his creation Adam (Alex Breaux).

The makeup and special effects by Brian Spears and Peter Gerner are realistically grotesque as the monster looks like a cross between a Sphynx cat and various incarnations of Frankenstein throughout cinema history. Horror is so much better when filmmakers use practical effects over CGI.

What I love about this version of the iconic story is that no one feels repulsed by Adam. We live in a world ravaged by war and atrocities so a scarred-up man these days doesn’t garner a double-take.

In one of the film’s standout scenes, Adam visits The Metropolitan Museum of Art with Dr. John Polidori (a very good Joshua Leonard), the money man behind Henry’s research who works for Big Pharma, in other words, the villain.

No one bats an eye as Henry and John take in the beautiful artwork in what resembles a high school field trip. Adam is a blank canvas absorbing his surroundings as Henry and John create their masterpiece.

While the trip to The MET was a great learning experience for Adam it doesn’t take long for John to corrupt his progeny with drugs, alcohol, and carnal desires. Adam eventually runs away and ends up in a bar where he meets Shelley (Addison Timlin) who digs his “Iggy Pop” look.

For a minute it looks like Fessenden is setting her up to be the creature’s “Bride” as he begins to fall for the tipsy punk rocker.

“Depraved” begins with an introduction to Adam’s benefactor, an awkward millennial named Alex (Owen Campbell) who is murdered for his brain which is transferred into Adam’s skull.

We don’t know too much about the victim except that he’s in love with Lucy (Chloë Levine) and that he seems to be a decent guy who’s just not ready to become a father. Fessenden refrains from embedding Adam with killer tendencies caused by a body part that belonged to someone evil giving his creature the chance to start clean. So, without the predisposition to harm another person, Adam is like any other human whose nurturing plays a major factor in his development.

Most moviegoers will go into the film expecting a savage version of Shelly’s creation based on the indie film’s title but on the contrary Fessenden gives us one of the most vulnerable manifestations of Frankenstein leaving the depravity to mankind which is more frightening than any monster ever created.

(3 stars)

Opens Friday, September 13 at Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra (Houston). Opens Saturday, September 28 at Alamo Drafthouse Mueller (Austin)

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society.  He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

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