Depraved (Movie Review)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: The Frankenstein story gets a modern update when a doctor in New York uses parts lifted from murder victims to piece together a body and then brings his creation to life.

REVIEW: When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in the early 1800s, she not only crafted one of the all-time greatest horror stories, she also presented a concept that others have been using as a foundation for their own stories ever since. There are countless versions of the Frankenstein story out there, and writers and filmmakers have put their own stamp on each one, having the scenario play out in various settings and time periods. This week's take on Frankenstein is DEPRAVED, a film that was written, directed, edited, and produced by Larry Fessenden.

One thing that's unique about Fessenden's take on Frankenstein is the fact that his characters are actually aware of the Frankenstein story. When they decide to assemble a body out of parts lifted from various sources and then bring that body to life, they know they're doing something that Shelley wrote about, and they're even familiar enough with it all to know that the doctor in the novel was named Victor Frankenstein but his name was changed to Henry Frankenstein for the 1931 Universal Pictures adaptation. Oddly, they don't seem to notice how many aspects of their lives are mirroring Shelley's story. Also making DEPRAVED stand out from the pack is the setting, as Fessenden has moved the story to present day New York. As one character says, it's "Frankenstein of the Hudson"… which would have been a better title for the movie than the generic DEPRAVED.

The film starts with a young man named Alex (Owen Campbell) having a rather realistic relationship argument with his girlfriend Lucy (Chloë Levine). Alex and Lucy's issues won't mean much for long, but their conversation does establish a theme of the film. Alex doesn't want to have children with Lucy, but he's about to become part of an unusual parent/child relationship anyway. He leaves Lucy's apartment and heads back to his place, but gets murdered on the way. When he unexpectedly regains consciousness, his brain has been placed into the body of a large, stitched-together creature played by Alex Breaux. This thing is given the cliché name of Adam by its creator, its "father", David Call as Henry, but we'll come to find out that it wasn't given this name for the cliché reason.

Adam is haunted by vague memories of Lucy, but he basically has the mind of a toddler now, so Henry has to give him an education, and for a large portion of DEPRAVED's running time Adam will be learning about the world around him. During this stretch of the film, I found it easy to begin caring for Adam and hoping that things would turn out better for him than they have for previous Frankenstein's Monsters.

Henry's benefactor is a man named Polidori, played by Joshua Leonard – and I felt that Leonard stole the show as this sleazebag, who is a bit too interested to find out whether or not Adam's penis functions properly, and wants to make sure Henry keeps feeding him a certain experimental drug three times a day. The modern day New York setting is most prominent when Polidori takes Adam out for a field trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then takes him to a strip club and gives him a snort of cocaine. He's not a good person for Adam to be around, but he's entertaining to watch.

Despite my wishes that things would go well for Adam, anyone who knows Frankenstein knows that this is going to head in a bad direction. And it does soon enough, with one bone of contention being Adam's desire for a bride. Lonely and jealous that Henry has a woman in his life (Ana Kayne as Liz), Adam escapes from the loft apartment Henry keeps him in, goes to a bar, and finds a potential mate in a girl named Shelley (Addison Timlin). But Henry's not into it. It's around that time the situation completely falls apart.

I was concerned when I saw that DEPRAVED has a 114 minute running time, I thought Fessenden might lose me along the way, but that concern quickly faded away. It's longer than I expected, but it didn't feel like it. It moves along at a good pace and kept me captivated, invested in Adam's story and eager to see what would happen next. The film is well written, and Fessenden did a great job of updating the Frankenstein story, tying Henry's motivation into his military service and commenting a bit on the pharmaceutical industry. 

Fessenden also put together an excellent cast, although my one disappointment with DEPRAVED was because of the cast. Familiar with Levine from THE TRANSFIGURATION and THE RANGER, I was glad to see her in this film and assumed she would be the heroine. Unfortunately, she's not in this very much. After the opening scene she only shows up for fleeting moments here and there. I was hoping Fessenden would focus more heavily on the idea of Adam, driven by Alex's memories, trying to get back to Lucy, but Lucy gets pushed aside and overshadowed. It's almost enough to make me hope for a sequel where Lucy would have a bigger role.

While DEPRAVED does feature some gore and intense scenes, anyone looking for a film that's packed with blood and scares won't find what they're looking for here. However, viewers who go into DEPRAVED with an interest in delving into the drama of a Frankenstein-esque situation will be rewarded with a fascinating character study that's largely told from the perspective of the "monster".

DEPRAVED is getting a limited theatrical release on September 13th.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.