Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Many classic “midnight movies” inhabit the gray area between art and schlock, and Glass Eye Pix’s Depraved is no exception; indeed, this imaginative reinterpretation of Frankenstein could almost serve as a case study of the phenomenon.
Although writer/director/producer/editor Larry Fessenden (a seasoned veteran of the indie horror scene) makes no effort to conceal his minuscule budget, that doesn’t mean he uses his relative lack of funding as an excuse for poor craftsmanship. Several sequences during the first act—when our recently reanimated protagonist is slowly acclimating to his new environment following a traumatic brain transplant—border on avant-garde, visually representing the reactivation of neurons and synapses with kaleidoscopic montages of color and light. Of course, Fessenden can’t afford to indulge in too much spectacle; fortunately, he compensates by devoting the majority of the running time to developing his characters—especially the gradual evolution of “The Monster’s” childlike psyche… and, more specifically, the impact that this transformation has on his relationship with his creator. The film’s numerous attempts at social and political commentary (the “mad scientist,” for example, is a former military medic suffering from severe PTSD, and “Big Pharma” eventually emerges as a major antagonist) occasionally feel clumsy at best and pretentious at worst, but Mary Shelley’s core themes (particularly her prophetic warning regarding the danger of blind ambition in the pursuit of scientific knowledge) remain universally relevant even in the updated setting of modern-day New York.
Despite its minor flaws, seeing Depraved has convinced me to finally seek out more of Fessenden’s work (previously, I was only really familiar with his contributions to Until Dawn, a choose-your-own-adventure video game); his scrappy, do-it-yourself style and idiosyncratic voice as a storyteller are worthy of immense respect.