DEPRAVED – movie review

IFC Midnight
Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Larry Fessenden
Screenwriter: Larry Fessenden
Cast: David Call, Joshua Leonard, Alex Breaux, Addison Timlin, Maria Dizzla
Screened at: Critics link, NYC, 8/29/19
Opens: September 13, 2019

Depraved Movie Poster

Larry Fessenden’s feverish tale of a human being created by assembled body parts is an apt updating of Mary Shelley’s classic “Frankenstein,” now celebrating the novel’s 200th anniversary. Fessenden, who performed in the 2007 movie “Psychopaths” which deals with chaos inflicted by its title character, and who directed “The Last Winter” about people going insane in the Arctic, is well within his métier with this tale of horror. “Depraved” carries the message so often dished out in the horror films of the 1950s that “Maybe we should not have tampered with nature,” has been resurrected in a tale that conjures up images of young people working their parents’ garage doing exactly that with predictably disastrous results.

The film opens up with an argument between Lucy (Chloë Levine) and her boyfriend Alex (Owen Campbell), but without realizing it, the young woman has won the argument since Alex is attacked in the dark Brooklyn streets, stabbed to death. His body is dragged to a nearby lab, actually a loft in Brooklyn’s Gowanus area, where a doctor removes his brain and transplants it into a cobbled-together human being, sutures everywhere as though tattoos designed to terrify. Poof: Adam (Alex Breaux) comes to life, his first vision that of Henry (David Call), an otherwise nice guy eager to give him drugs thrice daily to prevent rejection, then to program him and together with his financier John Polidari (Joshua Leonard) make a fortune. Henry, unlike John, is not altogether greedy, but rather intent on restoring to life people killed on the battlefield where Henry, having received medals for bravery in the Middle East, now harbors PTSD.

He teaches Adam ping-pong, and watches while his lone pupil picks up one skill after another, though Henry cannot imagine what Adam is thinking. The creation’s thoughts show the impact of the brain, giving Adam memories of the good times with Lucy but also filled with lightning-like sparks that have always been a major part of films dealing with the experiments of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Henry introduces Adam to people in his life, including his girlfriend Liz (Ana Kayne) who is concerned with Adam’s loneliness, all the while being pushed by John toward introducing the creation to the scientific world to make a fortune. As in the classic James Whale’s 1931 film “Frankenstein” in which Boris Karloff as the monster scared the bejesus out of kids as Karloff had been doing since 1919, a monster, friendly, even cuddly, always ready to learn and accept nurturing, goes bonkers when treated badly by his creators, leaving bodies in his wake.

Of course we in the audience can sympathize in part with Henry, who is more concerned with saving lives than his financier John, but we put most of our sentiments into Adam, whose name allows us to think that maybe technology will go a lot farther than giving us smart phones to while away our days and nights by creating a new breed of human being that will have us somehow make room and disappear.

Special effects are dazzling albeit repetitious in what you could call a dystopian dream with technology running strictly on the defensive.

115 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B