by Hope Madden
It is tough to find a fresh direction to take fiction published 201 years ago, let alone a tale already made into countless films. Is there a new way—or reason—to look at the Frankenstein fable?
Writer/director/horror favorite Larry Fessenden thinks so. He tackles the myth, as well as a culture of greed and toxic masculinity, with his latest, Depraved.
Adam (a deeply sympathetic Alex Breaux) is kind of an act of catharsis for Henry (David Call). A PTSD-suffering combat medic, Henry is so interested in finding a way to bring battlefield fatalities back to life that he doesn’t even question where his Big Pharma partner Polidori (Joshua Leonard, in another excellent genre turn) gets his pieces and parts.
Here’s a question that’s plagued me since I read Shelley’s text in 8th grade. Why take parts of cadavers? Why not bring one whole dude back and save all that time and stitching effort? Frank Henenlotter (Frankenhooker) and Lucky McKee (May) found answers to that question. Fessenden isn’t worried about it.
He’s more interested in illuminating the way a culture is represented in its offspring. Pour all your own ugly tendencies, insecurities and selfish behaviors into your creation and see what that gets you.
Fessenden isn’t subtle about the problems he sees in society, nor vague about their causes. Depraved is the latest in a host of genre films pointing fingers at the specific folks who have had the power to cause all the problems that are now coming back to bite us in the ass.
It’s the white guys with money because, well, because it is.
Along with Leonard’s oily approach and Breaux’s tenderness, the film boasts solid supporting work from Chloe Levine (The Transfiguration, Ranger) and especially Addison Timlin, who is great in a very small role.
There is a sloppy subtext here, charming in its refusal to be tidy, about the man Adam used to be (or one of them), the girl he didn’t really appreciate, and the way, deep down, a mildly douchy guy can learn a lesson about self-sacrifice.
In its own cynical way, Depraved does offer a glimmer of hope for mankind. Fessenden doesn’t revolutionize the genre or say anything new, though, but you won’t leave the film wishing Shelley’s beast would just stay dead.