It’s been six years since the creative genius that is Larry Fessenden has graced fans with a new film. A renowned horror auteur, with such films as Habit and Wendigo, many of us were excited when it was announced earlier last year that Fessenden would be directing and writing an upcoming horror film titled DEPRAVED, centering around a contemporary reimagining of Mary Shelley’s timeless classic, Frankenstein.
For the World Premiere of DEPRAVED, which took place on March 13 as part of the What the Fest!? Film Festival, I had the chance to speak with Larry about his newest film. During our talk, we discussed everything from modernizing Frankenstein’s monster, the effects of human depravity, and the commentary the film has on the state of the world.
Hi Larry, thank you so much for taking the time out to speak with me today. To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about your newest film, DEPRAVED?
Larry Fessenden: DEPRAVED is a modern take on Frankenstein, set in Gowanus, Brooklyn in the present day. A field surgeon suffering from PTSD is back from the wars in the Middle East and atones for losses on the battlefield by making a man out of body parts in a makeshift lab.
What inspired you to want to do a contemporary re-telling of Frankenstein?
LF: I have always loved the iconic monster from years watching movies (the old Universal black and white films), reading comic books and fanzines, building models, drawing the monster, staring at posters and contemplating the themes of the story.
You touched on this a little, but there is a lot to unpack with this movie. On its first viewing, I found that the film was a commentary on how the world is today in regards to overprescribing medication, PTSD, war, etc. Can you elaborate on why you wanted to show that?
LF: In order to update a classic tale in my view, you have to connect it to contemporary concerns and trends so you are able to revitalize the stale cliches of the story and give it a new vitality. I am hardly the first to do this. Frankenstein is perhaps the most re-imagined story out there, not just the adaptations but the greater riffs on the idea: everything from Robo-Cop, to Ex-Machina to Species and on and on, they are all Frankenstein stories. With bio-tech today, there are many parables to make about technology getting out of control. But I wanted to go back to the classic notion of a body sewn together with a brain implant and think about the way we’d have to supplement that with a cocktail of pharmaceuticals.
I loved how emotions were displayed through the use of colorful graphics. What was the reasoning behind that?
LF: I wanted to show how the brain is an organ where our thoughts and emotions emanate from, all art and science and nature are connected in organic patterns: lightning looks like veins, which looks like tree branches and the aerial views of rivers and streams, all these systems are what makes up the world and it’s all in the head. Emotions and memory all based in physical systems.
The film highlights the depravity of humans but also shines a light on the good. Did you enjoy playing with both of those themes? Are we to believe that the actions of Adam at the end of the film are due to how he sees humans behave around him?
LF: Yes, the film charts the small psychic shocks that shape Adam and we see how the people around him and arbitrary events lead to his destiny and exile. It is an origin story of a monster, he is an outcast at the end. That is the strength of the story, you can see a whole life from innocence to corruption in a concentrated tale. In all my movies I examine how people behave, good and bad, villains and heroes and try to understand the psychology behind people’s actions.
Lastly, what do you hope people take away from DEPRAVED after they see it?
LF: You can’t control how people take in art. The movie belongs to the viewer. Each audience member comes at the film from their own perspective. If you love Frankenstein, you will be looking to see if it honors the mythology you love; if you want a social parable you will judge it from that view. As a character study or work of cinema, how does it measure up? What I have tried to do is create a world that is immersive and allows for contemplation and ideas and emotions and color and sound to percolate into a satisfying whole.