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Exclusive: Larry Fessenden talks making his own monster with “DEPRAVED”

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 | Exclusive, Interviews

By MICHAEL GINGOLD

Writer/director Larry Fessenden’s first feature, the science shocker NO TELLING, was subtitled THE FRANKENSTEIN COMPLEX, and now he has returned to the timeless horror theme with DEPRAVED. With the movie premiering tonight at New York City’s What the Fest!?, we have exclusive words with the filmmaker.

DEPRAVED stars David Call (pictured) as Henry, a military surgeon and veteran of Middle East combat whose experiments back home result in a patchwork man, Adam (Alex Breaux), made of body parts. He attempts to shield his “monster” from the evils of the world, but as Adam becomes more aware, Henry finds his creation becoming uncontrollable. While the basics of the story are familiar from Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Fessenden, a major fan of the landmark Boris Karloff FRANKENSTEIN, notes, “A lot of people ask, ‘Is it an adaptation?’ and it isn’t at all, yet I’ve internalized the rhythm of the story so much that it is, in fact, remarkably similar. I have the advantage of riffing on all the different FRANKENSTEINs, so for example, Adam has a cloudy white eye, and that’s obviously a nod to the Christopher Lee makeup [in Hammer Films’ CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN]. There’s even a shot in this that I love from FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY, the Michael Sarrazin TV movie, which I loved as a kid; it just struck me when I saw it.

“It’s like doing a cover song,” he continues. “I’m acknowledging the originals, riffing on them, and then trying to tell it my own way. What I’m doing is subjective, from the monster’s point of view, and it traces how he got to be the monster. Many scenes are also very, very sad, so there’s a lot of pathos to it.”

Henry is never given a last name, and there’s no reference to “Frankenstein” in the film for some time. The moniker of Leonard’s character, however, does reference the story’s history. “He’s named Polidori, after one of the other writers at the weekend in Geneva where Mary Shelley began writing her book. He’s a friend of Henry’s who’s financing his experiments, and he’s trying to get money from his pharmaceutical company to support these drugs. The two of them are very self-aware about what they’re doing, saying, ‘We’re going to really sew a body together; we’re not going to work in a Petri dish.’ It’s an acknowledgement that this is somewhat archaic. But it’s because Henry was in a war, and he saw real physical carnage and people with their arms blown off, so he has a sense of how to do this.”

Fessenden spent a number of years trying to get DEPRAVED off the ground, sometimes on fairly high budgets and, at one point, as an HBO miniseries. He was finally able to put it before the cameras when Joe Swanberg’s Forager Films teamed up with his Glass Eye Pix to help finance the movie—and during that period, a number of other features on the same subject hit the screen scene, including 20th Century Fox’s big-ticket VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN and Bernard Rose’s FRANKENSTEIN. “Every one of them was torturous to me!” Fessenden admits. “None of them were especially good; I don’t love VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN. The one that most ‘threatened’ me was the play [directed by Danny Boyle, which was broadcast in theaters], because I wanted [its star] Benedict Cumberbatch for a long time; this was when we were making a big movie. I saw it on video, and it was really inspiring.”

The DEPRAVED cast also includes Joshua Leonard (UNSANE), Ana Kayne, Chloe Levine (THE RANGER), Addison Timlin (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN), Maria Dizzia and Owen Campbell (SUPER DARK TIMES). Glass Eye regulars Brian Spears and Peter Gerner created the makeup effects, which provide Adam a transformation over the course of the film. “He starts out almost looking like an alien—completely bald and totally nude. He’s like this strange creature with all these scars and a terrible gaunt walk. And then he kind of matures through it, and becomes very naturalistic.”

DEPRAVED was just picked up for worldwide sales by Yellow Veil Pictures, so stay tuned for news on DEPRAVED’s further screenings and release.

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and spent 28 years as a writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. In addition to RUE MORGUE, he currently writes for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM, IndieWire.com, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM and others. His book THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press) is out this fall, and he has contributed liner notes and featurettes to a number of Blu-ray and DVD releases. Among his screenplay credits are SHADOW: DEAD RIOT and LEECHES!, and he is currently working on THE DOLL with director Dante Tomaselli.