Depraved review Addison Timlin Alex Breaux

Year: 2019
Director(s): Larry Fessenden
Writer(s): Larry Fessenden
Region of Origin: US
Rating: n/a
Digital, Color, 114 mins

Synopsis: A disillusioned field surgeon suffering from PTSD makes a man out of body parts and brings him to life in a Brooklyn loft. (Source)

Pretty much everyone knows Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s a story that’s ubiquitous in pop consciousness and one that’s left a permanent mark on the ever-shifting horror genre. Still, Larry Fessenden’s newest film, Depraved, is an exciting riff on Shelley’s classic. Make no mistake though, he hasn’t merely given it a facelift, but transformed it into something wholly his own. The result highlights the primal angst and timeless poignancy of the original while showcasing Fessenden’s own skill for capturing the existential zeitgeist. With this film, Fessenden is again showing everyone how it’s done. It’s a complex dissection of human frailty with fresh visual style and psychological dread.

After a minor spat with his girlfriend Lucy (Chloe Levine), Alex (Owen Campbell) leaves for the night not knowing that his life is about to end. While walking home, he’s stabbed to death and dies. And yet, he awakens some time later, dazed, confused and in a body that’s been stitched together from unknown hosts. This version of him is named Adam (Alex Breaux), and has been created by Henry (David Call), an ex-field surgeon suffering from PTSD. For Henry, Adam’s existence holds limitless possibility, even if he struggles with the moral consequences of his experiment. As Adam slowly begins to remember his past, both him and Henry find each other at a crossroads. 

In every aspect, Fessenden’s latest feels like a gift for horror fans. Rather than following trends or resorting to cheap scares, Fessenden confidently charts the emotional and psychological aspects of his story. There’s a subtle dread the underlines every scene, blending inventive lo-fi effects with striking cinematography and poetic editing. All of this puts us into the headspace of his tormented characters, each exploring the nature of masculinity, guilt, existence and hope. In Henry, Fessenden finds a character who is struggling with responsibility, good intentions and hubris. Adam presents a war between innocence and corruption. Through it all, the film highlights the contradictions that make us who we are, using restraint and a pensive tone rather than generic genre fireworks.

Depraved review David Call Alex Breaux

Naturally, the performances are a big part of what make the film work. David Call’s Henry is perhaps the effort’s anchor. Most of the film funnels through Call, and he offers a fair reflection of its twisted and unpredictable themes. Alex Breaux’s Adam is a brilliant modern version of the “creature.” Breaux gets us through most of his journey without speaking, relying on a physical performance that is piercing. There’s something in his eyes and every calculated action really sells the entire thing. Joshua Leonard adds chaos into the plot as Polidori, a handler of sorts for Henry, while Chloe Levine and Owen Campbell give us a window into Adam’s past life.

Depraved proves why Fessenden has been such a staple in the genre. He’s a gifted storyteller who’s always got a keen understanding of societal fears, and his latest is not different. There’s a romanticism that is hard to ignore, even as dark truths float to the top. No matter how much you’ve experienced the Frankenstein story, this film makes it feel new again. This is not only a welcome respite from most of horror’s most overworn tendencies, but a sharp, indisputable match between source material and director. Fessenden has beautifully transposed a timeless story to modern day. It’s gritty, moody and beautiful all at once. 

SG