Shudder Review: Depraved (2019)

Depraved. Directed by: Larry Fessenden. Starring: David Call, Joshua Leonard, Alex Breaux. Runtime: 1h 54 min.

Writer/director Larry Fessenden gives the classic tale of Frankenstein a modern spin as he places the story in Brooklyn, where a disillusioned field surgeon suffering from PTSD creates a living man from body parts in his Brooklyn loft.

From the loft itself to just every set, the film looks great. Fessenden’s style lends itself to the film well, too, with some aesthetic showing up occasionally like when Adam (Alex Breaux), the “monster,” is first getting adjusted to the world and it sounds like he’s hearing gibberish instead of real language when he’s first learning about everything. This is mostly through visuals like light patterns on the screen, or when you have a squiggly in your line of sight and can’t shake it… Constant thunder in the style also help set the mood in this film, as well.

The focus of Depraved is watching Adam go through this self-discovery of what it means to be human, and that’s more so the goal than this being a traditional incredibly scary film as there’s such a strong focus on the character work. Adam himself is fascinating and the aspect of the screenplay where he experiences memories is great. These memories are of a man named Alex (Owen Campbell), who’s killed in the first 10 minutes so Adam could have a brain. This layer to the film that makes Adam confused about his identity is great, and the memories of Adam’s girlfriend Lucy (Chloë Levine) and how that being one of the contributing factors of making him want a significant other is well-written.

Depraved 3
Alex Breaux in Depraved. (Courtesy of Shudder.)

Fessenden’s script also makes this film’s Dr. Frankenstein, Henry (David Call), fascinating as well, as someone who, while on the battlefield in the Middle East, couldn’t do anything about everyone dying on the battlefield and at one point he says he wishes he could save everyone and just give them a new arm or leg. He thinks he’s doing good work with this now, bringing Adam back to life. The PTSD feels realistically portrayed by Call in this performance.

The way Joshua Leonard as Polidori comes into play and meddles into the creator/creation relationship is smart. He reckons Henry is sheltering Adam too much, and not letting him see the world. This scene where Polidori takes Adam out on the town is one of the film’s most entertaining sequences. Also, with this being a modern retelling, the component of this “experiment” also involving an experimental drug for a pharmaceutical company is intriguing, too, and that’s how Polidori mainly plays a part. That helps it feel fresh, and the dynamic between creator and creation in Henry and Adam respectively is memorable.

For anyone expecting horror with this one, it won’t meet those expectations, as there are many intense sequences but it never feels like traditional horror. The finale feels like it gets closest to horror as the set-up feels is intense, but otherwise, it’s just drama with horror elements. In those elements besides the story is the eerie score by Will Bates which is a highlight. I think it’s valid to expect more horror, as I believe the body horror could have been great here, but the end result kept my interest throughout and the pacing is always strong.

Score: 75/100

This film is also a Shudder Exclusive that started streaming on Shudder in the U.K. on December 10, 2020.

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