Saturday, January 11, 2020

Depraved (2019)

Director: Larry Fessenden
Notable Cast: David Call, Alex Breaux, Joshua Leonard, Ana Kayne, Maria Dizzia, Chloe Levine, Owen Campbell

Iconic indie filmmaker Larry Fessenden had always wanted to make a modern Frankenstein film (or so I've heard) and after seeing his latest, Depraved, it's a wonder why it never got off of the ground until this point.  In general, Depraved is a brilliant modern rendition of the Frankenstein lore. It takes all of the themes of the classic horror and science fiction tale and spins it to resonate with current social and political elements - never in a way that bombards its audience with agendas or messages, but in a brilliant way to show just how universal (pun intended) the story remains.

Growing up watching the original Universal Frankenstein films (both Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein remain as cornerstones of my cinematic personality), Depraved is a film that gave me the same sensations as the classics. It takes its genre elements and uses them as a medium to discuss in illuminated ways the struggle of the human condition. Focused on the dramatic weight of loss/gain, life/death, love/hate, and all of the gray areas that come with those, the film rarely embraces the terror or science fiction elements as so many modern Frankenstein interpretations do. It's a film about characters and their relationship to each other and the world - where the supernatural is only an extension of one's victories and failures. It's a phenomenal approach to the material.

As a narrative, it hits many recognizable tones and plot beats of its source influence, but the manner that Fessenden and company execute them makes it feel fresh and emotional.  Some incredible performances from the entire cast (no weak parts are stitched together on this monster, but there needs to be extra praise given to Alex Breaux for his performance as Adam) and Fessenden's own artsy genre visual style add another layer to why Depraved feels like lightning strikes with an impressive crack. Whether its the visual colorizations of Adam's growth that underscore many of the camera shots around our new monster Adam, the obvious nods to classic film style in the third act, or the modern approach to understanding emotional trauma, it's a film that works in waves.

Depraved is not the most thrilling of films and it comes against strong competition for genre films in 2019, but it's one of the best sleeper successes in the genre as of late. It's built on a human drama that resonates true while the indie tones and artistic flourishes on and off camera make it one that will soon be a cinematic cult hit. There might be hundreds of Frankenstein inspired films, but Depraved is easily one of the best, bringing the heart and soul of the original story into a modern context with finesse and impact.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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