With an astounding list of credits as an actor, (The Mind’s Eye, We Are Still Here) writer, (Wendigo, The Last Winter) and producer (Stake Land, I Sell The Dead) Larry Fessenden is a legend in indie horror circles. As a writer and director, he’s given us the likes of Habit and The Last Winter. He hasn’t directed a feature since 2013’s poorly received Beneath which he didn’t write. He seems to have learned from that, and he’s written the script for his latest directorial effort, the modern-day Frankenstein tale Depraved.
Alex (Owen Campbell, Super Dark Times, X) has a rough night with his girlfriend Lucy (Chloë Levine, The Ranger), leaving after an argument over having children. It’s about to get a lot worse though as he’s attacked and brutally stabbed as he walks home. He comes to, but in a body he doesn’t recognize. One that looked stitched together from assorted pieces. That’s because it is, he is the brain in Adam (Alex Breaux).
Adam is the creation of Henry (David Call, Dark Was The Night) a brilliant but PTSD-damaged surgeon. Things become tense as Henry’s less than ethical partner Polidori (Joshua Leonard, The Blair Witch Project, Torn Hearts) seeks to cash in on the research behind Adam’s creation.
Those looking for a traditional monster movie are going to be disappointed. Depraved is more of a drama in the style of films such as Bride of Frankenstein. The real monsters are the humans, most obviously the manipulative biomedical CEO Polidori. Henry is manipulated by Polidori and is clouded by his PTSD but he’s still far from a good person. He refers to Adam as “it” to his face, talks about ending the experiment when he can hear it, etc. He’s even willing to be a party to murder.
The film has much to say about the medical industry and its ethics or lack thereof. There’s a scene where Adam sits quietly as an ad for one of the drugs he’s on plays on the radio, listing a long litany of side effects. It’s a quietly effective reinforcement of the greed and disregard for people’s actual health we’ve already seen from industry figures in the film.
We actually feel sympathy for Adam. He’s confused, haunted by memories he can’t understand and has no real understanding of who or what he is or how he came to be. At least not until he finds a tablet full of videos of his creation. After seeing them even the cocktail of drugs they feed him can’t restrain him and he breaks out. With violent and tragic results.
The final showdown does have elements of a traditional horror film and is fairly exciting. But that comes late in the film’s just under-two-hour running time. And the final sequence is actually very poignant. But Fessenden has never directed typical horror films so we shouldn’t be expecting one here either. Depraved is much more of a dark drama with horror elements than an all-out fright film. And it’s much better for it, his talents would be wasted on another generic “creature on the loose” film.
Depraved makes its world premiere on the opening night of What The Fest!? You can keep posted on other screenings via Glass Eye Pix website.