There have been hundreds of adaptations of the classic Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley novel Frankenstein. Starting in 1910 with J. Searle Dawley’s Frankenstein. There were two other adaptations before the beloved Universal films starring Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. Then, of course, there were Hammer Horror adaptations with Christopher Lee as the monster…and so on and so forth going into the 21st century with the Showtime Series Penny Dreadful and the James McAvoy/Daniel Radcliffe vehicle Victor Frankenstein.
What all these films have in common is that they are quite clearly Frankenstein adaptations. With Larry Fessenden’s newest film, Depraved, it’s not thrown in your face. If anything, I saw parallels more immediately to Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, which itself is a loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Re-Animator. It can be argued that the serial novelette of Lovecraft’s is a bit of a “re-imagining” of Frankenstein as well, but that’s a story for another time.
Depraved is the most modern interpretation of the ideas brought forth in Frankenstein and Re-Animator thus far. In the beginning, we meet Alex (Owen Campbell) and Lucy (Chloë Levine). A young couple in love and about to marry. It seems as though things are going to go great for them, but you go in knowing this is a horror movie, so of course, that isn’t the case. Alex gets attacked randomly on his walk home from Lucy’s apartment. He doesn’t survive the attack.
“There’s a pill called RapidX that helps speed up Adam’s recovery from…being a human jigsaw puzzle…”
We are then taken to a Gowanus Loft (that I would totally live in, in case anyone wants to give me some info on how to rent it) where Henry (David Call), a doctor who served in the Iraq war has been conducting some rather unorthodox experiments. Shortly after being introduced to this setting, Henry’s patient wakes up. The patient is of course “The Monster” or as he is called in the novel, Adam (Alex Breaux). When he first wakes up, Henry can’t believe it. He’s overjoyed with this ability to bring people back from the dead.
Henry’s partner in this venture, Dr. John Polidori (Joshua Leonard) is the one with the money that made all the experiments possible. He also works for a big pharmaceutical company. There’s a pill called RapidX that helps speed up Adam’s recovery from…being a human jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t take too long before Adam can talk, play ping-pong, read hundreds of books, become interested in women, and have memories from the brain of its original…owner. Henry is a bit overwhelmed by how quickly this is taking place, but Polidori is incredibly excited. Henry’s girlfriend Liz (Ana Kayne) is none too pleased with how secretive Henry is about this work. Adam is a little bit too fond of Liz.
If you’ve seen any iteration of Frankenstein or Re-Animator, you know these things don’t usually end well for the doctor, the patient, or anyone else involved. However, in Depraved, Henry (who Polidori refers to as “Henry Frankenstein” towards the end of the film) is suffering from severe PTSD, and that is his reason for being obsessed with bringing people back to life. Polidori is the real “villain” if there is one. Towards the end of the film, there are numerous nods to the Universal film with Boris Karloff, which are great little Easter eggs.
“So if you want to see an awesome punk rock New York Frankenstein movie from the director of Wendigo, you should check out Depraved.”
The whole cast is excellent, but I particularly loved Alex Breaux as Adam. You empathize more with him than you do with any of the supposedly more human characters. Adam shows us the purity of innocence and the sadness when that innocence is destroyed. I also thoroughly enjoy Maria Dizzia as the disaffected, annoyed wife of Dr. Polidori, Georgina. She’s usually great in everything, and this performance is no exception.
There are a lot of psychedelic visuals and creepy lighting that fits the mood of the film. Overall I would refer to this as the punk rock Frankenstein movie. There’s one part where Adam is in a bar, and a girl named Shelley (Addison TImlin) tells him he looks like Iggy Pop. He then tells her his name is Iggy and The Stooges are playing in the bar while the whole interchange is happening. The film also shows the creepy grittiness of the particular part of Brooklyn near the Gowanus Canal that can feel pretty scary at night. Depraved is also a grand tour of South Brooklyn. There are also some great scenes at The Met. So if you want to see an awesome punk rock New York Frankenstein movie from the director of Wendigo, you should check out Depraved. If this doesn’t sound immediately interesting to you, I don’t know if we can be friends. I’m sorry.
Depraved (2019) Written and Directed by Larry Fessenden. Starring David Call, Joshua Leonard, Alex Breaux, Ana Kayne, Maria Dizzia, Chloë Levine, Owen Campbell, Addison Timlin, Chris O’Connor, Alice Barrett, Andrew Laskey, Jack Fessenden, James Tam, Zilong Zee, Noah Le Gros.
9 out of 10 stars