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It’s (Somewhat) Alive!: Frankenstein Tale Depraved Playing at Alamo Drafthouse Park North

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Updating classic literature for a new generation is a tough assignment for any director, especially when the story has been adapted for the screen countless times. From Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island to H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, there are plenty of literary masterworks current filmmakers have tried to reclaim for themselves while still honoring the original text.

English author Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein is the most recent resource to get siphoned by a hungry screenwriter. In Depraved, writer-director Larry Fessenden (Wendigo) gives us his version of the horror story first made famous in theaters by Universal Pictures’ 1931 film Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff.

Set in a spacious Brooklyn loft (because every mad scientist needs extra room to store hacked up corpses, right?), Depraved stars David Call (TV’s The Sinner) as Henry, a former Army medic who saw so many disturbing things on the battlefield that he returned home with PTSD. Now, holed away in an apartment, Henry is making sure he doesn’t let his surgical skills get rusty by piecing together a human specimen from the body parts of murder victims.

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Who (or what) he awakens is Adam (Alex Breaux), a scarred-up, reanimated being who doesn’t understand how he got there or why he’s recalling someone else’s memories. With help from Henry, Adam learns how to become more human by working on his hand-eye coordination and cognitive abilities. He also picks up some worldly knowledge from John (Joshua Leonard), a pharma bro who is bankrolling Henry’s little science experiment.

While Fessenden’s take on Frankenstein explores a handful of interesting ideas in the first hour about technology, mortality, morality and man’s natural ability to cause destruction, Depraved backpedals into cliché storytelling in the third act, relying on conventional monster-movie tropes that are a lot less thought-provoking than the sections of Fessenden’s script that work.

Like the best intimate horror movies, Fessenden injects authentic emotion in Depraved. In this case, however, it comes at the front and back ends of the film and doesn’t factor into Adam’s narrative — with the exception of the moment when he realizes he wants more out of life than just playing ping-pong and solving puzzles. If more of that sentiment was sprinkled throughout Depraved, it really might have come alive.

Depraved opens exclusively at the Alamo Drafthouse Park North September 27. It is also currently available on VOD platforms.

2.5 out of 5 stars