Depraved

LARRY FESSENDEN (2019 )

Depraved centers on Henry, a field surgeon suffering from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, who creates a man out of body parts in a makeshift lab in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The creature he creates must navigate a strange new world and the rivalry between Henry and his conniving collaborator Polidori.


Indiewire

3/19/19

‘Depraved’ Review: Larry Fessenden’s No-Budget Delight Brings Frankenstein into the 21st Century

Indie horror maestro Larry Fessenden refashions Mary Shelley’s immortal novel into a modern story of trauma and self-interest.

Hell-bent upon finding evidence of ancient monsters in the modern world (often by exploring how they continue to be reflected in the raw stuff of human nature), Larry Fessenden launched his filmmaking career with a Frankenstein story, and he’s been working his way back to the subject ever since. Traces of Mary Shelley’s mad science can be found in many of the low-budget horror movies that his Glass Eye Pix has produced since 1985, and they’re even more apparent in the ones that he’s directed: From the ecological hubris of “The Last Winter” to the monster-is-us mythicism of “Wendigo” and the selfishness that percolates beneath all of his narratives and bubbled to the surface in “Beneath,” each of his features has dissected a severed limb from Shelley’s foundational story.

With “Depraved” — which is perhaps both his least expensive and most ambitious movie — Fessenden sews his entire body of work together. More than a masterclass in DIY cinema, the result of this deranged experiment is a fun and febrile tale that takes the moral temperature of our time with an almost invasive degree of accuracy. If Fessenden’s reach inevitably exceeds his grasp, well, whose doesn’t these days?

Shot on the 200th anniversary of Shelley’s novel (after more than 15 years of kicking around Fessenden’s head), “Depraved” wasn’t conceived as a no-budget riff on a story that’s traditionally been adapted by large studios, but none of the bigger fish were taking the bait. But Fessenden, a Dr. Frankenstein in his own right, wouldn’t let a lack of cash get in the way of his creation. And so, with the help of some talented collaborators and a very flexible Gowanus warehouse, he forged ahead on a film that resurrects Shelley’s 19th century masterpiece with a decidedly 21st century mentality. This is a Frankenstein for the “move fast and break things” era, for a time when people really can fuck with God from their parents’ basement, and every tech giant from Facebook to Theranos is flying by the seat of its pants. The world changes faster than we do, but we can always see our true selves reflected in our visions for the future.

“Depraved” begins on its most benign note of recklessness, as a couple of Brooklyn twentysomethings (Owen Campbell and Chloë Levine) have a stilted post-coital argument about commitment; she wants him to stay over, but he’s already gotten what he wanted. Needless to say, you won’t be particularly heartbroken when the guy gets stabbed on his walk home. From there, he’s dragged to a scuzzy laboratory nearby, where his wet brain is transplanted into the stapled, alabaster body that Henry (David Call) has been stitching together in secret.

With the final piece in place, Henry — a grieving but gifted field medic who’s suffering from PTSD after serving in the Middle East — is ready to flick on the lights. And so Adam (Alex Breaux) is born. A mute and mangled collage of different corpses who’s brought to life by a mysterious drug, the careful precision of Breaux’s cyborg-like performance, and also the brilliant makeup work of Peter Gerner and Brian Spears, Adam is a far cry from the lumbering green oaf that James Whale made into a Universal icon (think Alex Pettyfer’s character from “Beastly,” only much less humiliating). He’s like a reformatted computer that’s been assembled from old scraps. And Henry, who’s sweeter and more optimistic than Dr. Frankenstein ever was, can’t wait to program him. His old-money financier (“Unsane” actor Joshua Leonard as the single-minded Polidori), has other ideas. The rest is history: Men become monsters, monsters become men, everyone flies too close to the sun, and gravity takes its toll.

Despite the twisted implications of its title, “Depraved” is a rather sensitive, emotionally-driven story that’s at its best when its characters engage one another with the best of intentions. The film is seen through a woozy subjective haze (James Siewert contributes a clever lo-fi effect to get into Adam’s headspace, as colored lights fizz and pop across the entire screen to suggest his synaptic connections), and the first half in particular is padded with a gauze-like softness.

Surprised by Adam but only repulsed by himself, Henry becomes the heart and soul of the movie, and Call’s delicate performance walks a fine line between altruism and self-interest. To what extent is Henry conducting these experiments for the benefit of all mankind? To what extent is he just perverting the laws of nature in order to quell his personal grief over not being able to save his fellow troops? It’s hard to say — especially for Henry. Whether teaching Adam how to play ping-pong, or introducing Henry’s creation to his semi-estranged girlfriend (Ana Kayne), Call is always wrestling with the destructiveness of his character’s salvation, and always using one eye to watch how Henry’s worst impulses are borne out by Adam’s behavior. “Depraved” offers a skewed glimpse at what “The Social Network” might have been like if Mark Zuckerberg had a conscience.

That comparison extends itself to the film’s structure, which is linear but unstable. “Depraved” only moves in one direction, but it possesses different people as it goes along, and looks at Adam from their perspective. Fessenden’s approach reflects the shape of Shelley’s novel (at least to a certain extent), and stresses how everyone brings their own kind of moral equivocation to these grotesqueries. Polidori hijacks the story in order to show Adam some culture, and then Henry’s girlfriend slips in to show Adam some affection; the impressionable golem soaks up what he sees like a sponge, and becomes a fun-house mirror for the self-interests of those he meets. It isn’t long before strangers become potential victims (Addison Timlin, who co-starred with Fessenden in the dementedly brilliant “Like Me,” gives the movie a well-timed shot in the arm as a curious bar-dweller who’s too kind for her own good).

For the most part, however, “Depraved” suffers for pulling focus away from the fragile bond between Henry and Adam. As a caricature of start-up culture, Polidori is a poor complement to the wrenching journey that the rest of the characters are on; Fessenden wanted to make a version of “Frankenstein” where we feel empathy for both the monster and his creator, but he may have underestimated how successful he was in doing so. Henry brings the war home with him so vividly that his brewing conflict with Polidori is hard to believe in comparison.

It’s as if Fessenden, whose work has always satirized human selfishness, is a bit uncomfortable with the idea of taking it seriously. The tortured nuance of the film’s core gives way to a broad throwdown between right and wrong, and the DIY charm that “Depraved” relies on to stress how we’re all stuck in a horror movie is replaced by an overextended attempt to make this story feel larger than life. It’s possible that Fessenden — who finds a satisfying way to bring the story home — has succumbed to the same American exceptionalism that fuels so many of his characters. More likely, he was seduced by the scale of the original “Frankenstein” story. Either way, “Depraved” has the brains to survive all sorts of mottled damage to its body, and resolves as a welcome reminder that independent cinema would be a better place if everyone shared Fessenden’s ambitions for it.

Cinemaniac

3/17/19

Depraved. Larry Fessenden’s macabre, inspired take on the Frankenstein story is heartbreaking as it is horrifying. Set in a warehouse/loft in Brooklyn, Henry (David Call) is a former army surgeon suffering PTSD who has stitched together body parts and brought to life Adam (Alex Breaux). He reluctantly becomes a father-figure to this re-animated creature, training Adam how to talk, think, dress himself, play puzzles and ping pong and learn that “gravity” is his friend. Fessenden gets to the core of Mary Shelley’s story, this go-round the science used is more drug-related that electrical. But it also gets the folly of the God-like doctor learning to regret and fear his own creation. Alex Breaux’s performance is stunning in its physicality and pathos. Fessenden truly is a hero of mine- he has consistently made some of the most lyrical, bizarre, thought-provoking genre films. This Frank ‘N The Hood is one of his very best.

Film School Rejects

50. DEPRAVED

Along with Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma Entertainment, Larry Fessenden and his company Glass Eye Pix is one of the most well-respected staples of New York City genre filmmaking. From Habit to Beneath, Fessenden takes well-worn tropes and spins them in the way only a grizzled New Yorker could. What could ostensibly be seen as Fessenden’s attempt to reignite The Dark Universe (#TeamMummy), Depraved can also be referred to as Fessenden’s Frankenstein. Adjacent to the toxic sludge of the Gowanus Canal, a field surgeon suffering from PTSD concocts life out of discarded body parts in his Brooklyn based lab. While I want to make a joke about hipsters, gentrified Brooklyn, and already being the walking dead, if I know Larry’s work, he’ll have the satire in spades. – Jacob

Geek.com

12 Most Anticipated Horror Films of 2019

The fine folks out at Glass Eye Pix have another nail biter for us. This time it looks to be writer and director Larry Fessenden’s stab at a Frankenstein-type tale. All we know so far is that our field surgeon lead is suffering from PTSD and starts making a creation out of human body parts and brings them to life. Fans of Supermassive Games Until Dawn starring Rami Malek may remember creator Fessenden as the games co-writer and Ahab character who attempts to save the surviving teens.

Bloody Disgusting

DEPRAVED

Written and directed by Larry Fessenden, Depraved looks to be a new, twisted take on the Frankenstein story. In it, a field surgeon suffering from PTSD makes a man out of body parts and brings him to life, but this is Fessenden at the helm, so we know there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

Indie Wire

1/30/18

Larry Fessenden to Direct ‘Frankenstein’-Inspired Horror Movie ‘Depraved’ — Exclusive

Few American filmmakers epitomize the spirit of horror made beyond the clutches of Hollywood better than Larry Fessenden, who has directed and produced socially conscious scary movies for decades. Now, IndieWire has exclusively learned that Fessenden is stepping behind the camera for the first time in several years to direct “Depraved” from his own script. Billed as a contemporary reimagining of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” Fessenden’s project focuses on a field surgeon who suffers from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, and creates a living human out of body parts in his Gowanus, Brooklyn lab.

This is not the first time Fessenden has used the backdrop of a creepy laboratory to explore real-world concerns. His 1991 feature “No Telling” focused on a man experimenting on animals and the impact of the work on his personal life. Fessenden is best known for directing the 1999 New York vampire drama “Habit,” the mystical “Wendigo,” and the eco-thriller “The Last Winter.” He last directed the Chiller-produced monster movie “Beneath,” and has produced countless low-budget projects through his Glass Eye Pix, including Ti West’s “The Innkeepers” and Jim Mickle’s “Stake Land.” Glass Eye Pix also produces the radio horror series “Tales From Beyond the Pale,” which premiered its latest season on IndieWire in 2017.

For “Depraved,” Fessenden said he was excited to bring the “Frankenstein” narrative into a contemporary context. In a statement, he called his approach to the story “deeply personal and visceral,” adding, “I’ve been moved by the iconic character since childhood and it is a great thrill to try and put my version on the screen.”

The movie begins production in New York in February. It stars David Call, Joshua Leonard, and Alex Breaux (“Bushwick”) as the monster.

The project will be produced by Joe Swanberg’s Forager Films, which recently premiered Josephine Decker’s “Madeline’s Madeline” at Sundance, in a deal brokered by executive producer Andrew Mer. “Larry Fessenden has consistently made groundbreaking, intelligent, socially relevant films in addition to shepherding some of the most important young voices in genre filmmaking,” Swanberg said. “We could not be more excited to collaborate with him on this project.”

 

Screen Anarchy

1/30/18

DEPRAVED: Larry Fessenden and Joe Swanberg Partner on Frankenstein Re-Imagining

Independent horror icon Larry Fessenden (HabitThe Last Winter), will direct a contemporary re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein called Depraved from his own script.

Depraved centers on Henry, a field surgeon suffering from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, who creates a man out of body parts in a makeshift lab in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The creature he creates must navigate a strange new world and the rivalry between Henry and his conniving collaborator Polidori.

Depraved marks a partnership between Fessenden’s long-running, production house Glass Eye Pix, which is responsible for launching the careers of many horror auteurs including Ti West (The House of the Devil) and Jim Mickle (Stake Land), and Forager Film Company, a film collective run by mumblecore legend Joe Swanberg (Drinking BuddiesEasy), Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams), and Edwin Linker (Golden Exits).

“I am very grateful to have Forager support this deeply personal and visceral take on the Frankenstein story, said Larry Fessenden. “I’ve been moved by the iconic character since childhood and it is a great thrill to try to put my version on screen.”

Joe Swanberg added, “Larry Fessenden has consistently made groundbreaking, intelligent, socially relevant films in addition to shepherding some of the most important young voices in genre filmmaking. We could not be more excited to collaborate with him on this project. “

Depraved lenses in February with cinematographers James Siewert and Chris Scotchdopole.

Bloody Disgusting

1/30/18

Larry Fessenden Directing Frankenstein-inspired ‘Depraved’!

Larry Fessenden, NYC’s independent horror auteur (Habit, Wendigo, The Last Winter), is set to direct Depraved from his own script, Bloody Disgusting just learned.

The film is said to be a contemporary reimagining of Mary Shelley’s timeless classic “Frankenstein”:

Depraved centers on Henry, a field surgeon suffering from PTSD after combat in the Middle East, who creates a man out of body parts in a makeshift lab in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The creature he creates must navigate a strange new world and the rivalry between Henry and his conniving collaborator Polidori.”

Alex Breaux, pictured below, will be starring as the monster with David Call and Joshua Leonard.

The film marks a partnership between Fessenden’s long-running, award-winning company Glass Eye Pix (Like Me, Stake Land, House of the Devil) and Forager Film Company (Little Sister), a film collective run by Joe Swanberg (Easy, V/H/S, Happy Christmas) Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams), and Edwin Linker. The deal was brokered by Andrew Mer, who will serve as Executive Producer.

Depraved will be produced by long-time Glass Eye Pix collaborator Jenn Wexler (producer of the SXSW Grand Jury prize winner and Spirit Award Nominee Most Beautiful Island, as well as Darling, Psychopaths and Like Me; director of the forthcoming The Ranger) and Chadd Harbold (producer of Most Beautiful Island). Fessenden also produces.

Depraved will lens in February with cinematographers James Siewert (Like Me, The Ranger) and Chris Scotchdopole (The Egg and the Hatchet).

 



DAVID CALL, “Henry” – David Call is an actor and producer, known for Tiny Furniture (2010), James White (2015) and Gabriel (2014).

JOSHUA LEONARD, “Polidori” – A filmmaker, writer, and actor, Joshua Leonard has made an indelible mark on independent film and television throughout his career. He first came onto the scene in 1999 with lo-fi sensation The Blair Witch Project, perhaps one of the most talked about indie films of all time. As an actor, Leonard continues to work on projects that push the envelope, including 2009’s Independent Spirit Award-winning Humpday, HBO’s acclaimed series “Hung,” “True Detective,” and The Duplass Brothers’ “Togetherness,” in addition to roles in the films Higher Ground by Vera Farmiga and If I Stay by RJ Cutler. Leonard’s directorial debut, The Youth in Us premiered at Sundance in 2005; he followed that with the doc, Beautiful Losers. He made his narrative feature debut with The Lie (Sundance 2011), a devilish morality tale adapted from a story by acclaimed author, T.C. Boyle, which Leonard co-wrote, directed and starred in. He recently wrapped production on his sophomore feature as a director, Behold My Heart, starring Marisa Tomei and Timothy Olyphant, based on a script that he co-wrote. In addition, he’s developing a one-hour television series for EPIX entitled “Liberty,” which he created and will EP alongside Cary Fukunaga.

ALEX BREAUX, “Adam” – Alex Breaux started his college career at Harvard University where he was a wide receiver/punt returner for Harvard’s varsity football team and two-time Ivy League champion. While still at Harvard, Breaux auditioned and was accepted into the Drama Division at The Juilliard School in New York City. In addition to acting, Breaux writes for film, television, and theatre.

ANA KAYNE, “Liz” – Ana Kayne is an actress and writer, known for Another Earth (2011), The Creek When He Came Back (2016) and Uncertainty (2008).



LARRY FESSENDEN, writer/director/producer/editor – Larry Fessenden, winner of the 1997 Someone to Watch Spirit Award, and nominee for the 2010 Piaget Spirit Award for producing, is the writer, director and editor of the award-winning art-horror trilogy HABIT (Nominated for 2 Spirit Awards), WENDIGO (Winner Best Film 2001 Woodstock Film Festival) and NO TELLING. His film, THE LAST WINTER (Nominated for a 2007 Gotham Award for best ensemble cast), premiered at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. Fessenden directed SKIN AND BONES for NBC TV’s horror anthology FEAR ITSELF and the feature film BENEATH for Chiller films. He wrote the screenplay with Guillermo del Toro of ORPHANAGE, an English language remake of the successful Spanish film EL ORFANATO. He is the writer, with Graham Reznick, of the hit Sony Playstation videogame UNTIL DAWN. Fessenden was awarded the 2007 Sitges Film Festival Maria Award for his work as a producer, actor and director in genre film, and he won the 2009 Golden Hammer Award for “being such an inspiring force in the industry.” In 2011, Fessenden was inducted into the “Fangoria Hall of Fame” and was honored by the UK’s Total Film as an Icon of Horror during the Frightfest Film Festival.

JAMES SIEWERT, cinematography – Known for his work on LIKE ME and THE RANGER. At the age of 13 James Siewert made his first film, in which the camera enters the main character’s eye. Now at 26 he has directed 3 more films where camera enters various bodily orifices. Along the way certain useful skills were acquired: how to build stuff, how to light stuff, and how to narrowly avoid a psychotic break during a week of shooting overnights. His main goal in life is to be able to keep making weird movies that some people care about.

CHRIS SKOTCHDOPOLE, cinematography – A writer, director and producer living in New York City. He works with Glass Eye Pix, an independent production outfit lead by director Larry Fessenden. Skotchdopole most recently served as co-producer on Jenn Wexler’s punk thriller, THE RANGER, starring Chloe Levine and Jeremy Holm. Previously, he worked as associate producer on Mickey Keating’s DARLING (SXSW) and Rob Mockler’s film LIKE ME (SXSW), starring Addison Timlin. He has produced several music videos and shorts for Glass Eye, including James Siewert’s THE PAST INSIDE THE PRESENT (Slamdance, Flordia Film Festival, Fantastic Fest). THE EGG AND THE HATCHET is his first short since graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 2010. Chris is currently developing a feature with Larry Fessenden.