Zombies are cool. Vampires never go out of style. Frankenstein’s monster? It’s complicated.
From flops (“I, Frankenstein”) to micro-indies (director Bernard Rose’s 2016 version), the creature could use a publicist.
Or, at the very least, an unabashedly fresh look at his origin story.
“Depraved” offers just that.
David Call stars as Henry, a former Army medic with a curious way of addressing his PTSD. He attempts to bring a corpse back to life, making up for all those times he couldn’t save his fellow soldiers.
Already director Larry Fessenden’s film is superior to recent Frankenstein attempts.
We’re spared the umpteenth, “It’s Alive!!” shriek, but Henry’s creation is soon walking and talking around the la-BORE-a-tory.
The heavily stitched Adam (Alex Breaux) is a quick study, but that’s the easy part. How will Henry introduce him into society? What role does Henry’s business partner (“The Blair Witch Project’s” Joshua Leonard) play in marketing this discovery? And whose brain is Adam’s anyway?
The final question is technically answered in the haunting prologue, but it’s not so simple.
FAST FACT: Larry Fessenden made his first film at the age of 10, a Super 8mm spin on the “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” saga.
Like the iconic beast, “Depraved” lumbers at times. The quirky animation meant to reveal a whoosh of brain chemistry isn’t to blame. What starts out as an overt sign of the film’s budget becomes an endearing tic, another sign Fessenden is taking the subject matter seriously and with a serious amount of affection.
The pace lags in the first half, though. Watching Adam get proficient at ping pong makes us crave something grittier, or even a random cheap scare. Our patience is soon rewarded.
The performances are spot on from start to finish. The monster is just that, but Breaux never veers into the shuffling visage we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, and fleeing. Call’s Henry is equally complex. He’s quick to embrace Adam like a father, but just as swift to discard him when his presence makes things complicated.
It’s a statement on our current culture, where selfies reflect our increasingly selfish manners. When holding doors open for strangers, a relic of a kinder age, leads to “privilege” rants, you know we’re in trouble.
“It’s part of my bloodstream, and my upbringing, and so I made this modern telling.” #Depraved, Larry Fessenden’s updated take on FRANKENSTEIN hits theaters on Friday, September 13!
Check out the stunning poster and read more here: https://t.co/bJx6o8zGDD via @EW pic.twitter.com/BKNWcOg1Uo
— IFC Midnight (@IFCMidnight) August 16, 2019
There’s some body horror here, of course, but it’s not the primary focus. “Depraved” shrewdly engages some FrankenTropes, from those ghastly stitches to the monster’s uncommon strength.
And, oh yes, there will be fire.
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One nagging flaw involves Henry’s sort-of girlfriend, played by Ana Kayne. Her under-written role is a lost opportunity, a chance to see how Henry’s mindset plays out in a conventional relationship. Her connection to Adam is equally glib.
Fassenden, who gives himself a second-long cameo, is one of indie horror’s elder statesman. He could have used the Frankenstein mythos to snag a quick buck. Instead, his “Depraved” shames big studio horror by exploring the reasons the saga endures.
HiT or Miss: “Depraved” reveals its tiny budget like oversized neck bolts, but this Frankenstein reboot offers something genuinely fresh.