M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 just yet.
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
It’s always a treat to see a new film by Larry Fessenden. Check out the credits in 7 out of 10 horror movies out there and you’ll see a cameo or some kind of special thanks given to the filmmaker/actor. The man is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to low budget movies. Having talked with him a few years ago, he told me he was planning on doing the film that turned out to be DEPRAVED on his own without a major studio. Turns out that kind of fiery, indie spirit paid off as DEPRAVED is one of the best adaptations of FRANKENSTEIN I’ve seen in years. Released in September 13, 2019, here’s my review of Larry Fessenden’s DEPRAVED! Available on digital download, and On Demand from Glass Eye Pix
Directed by Larry Fessenden
Written by Larry Fessenden
Starring David Call, Joshua Leonard, Alex Breaux, Ana Kayne, Maria Dizzia, Chloë Levine, Owen Campbell, Addison Timlin, Chris O’Connor, Alice Barrett, Andrew Lasky, Jack Fessenden, James Tam, Zilong Zee, Noah Le Gros, Larry Fessenden
DEPRAVED isn’t the first time Larry Fessenden has delved into the Frankenstein mythos. The Godfather of Indie Horror Cinema played with reanimation in one of his first films, the mad science drama NO TELLING. That was 1991 and even though NO TELLING was a memorable and powerful film, Fessenden has perfected his distinct style and delivered a stunning low fi masterpiece in DEPRAVED.
Fessenden brings Mary Shelley’s tale into the modern age, following a PTSD afflicted war medic named Henry (David Call) who pairs up with an opportunistic pharma businessman named Polidori (BLAIR WITCH PROJECT’s Joshua Leonard) to test their new experimental drug on a recent murder victim. Naming the reanimated victim Adam (Alex Breaux), Henry goes about his private rehabilitation in a meticulous and careful manner – teaching Adam basic coordination and memory skills. Of course, this isn’t fast enough results for Polidori. Meanwhile, Adam is having flashes of his previous life and urges to find a mate of his own, much like Henry’s devoted girlfriend Liz (Ana Kayne). You know where this is going…and it’s going to be bad.
Fessenden hits all of the story beats we’ve seen in tons of reinterpretations of the Shelley classic. The difference here is that Fessenden distills the basics from the story and applies it to a modern tale of big pharma, lofty ambition, and the conflict between corporate demand vs. humanitarian treatment. Despite those heady themes, DEPRAVED is drenched with character and heart all around, as Fessenden imbues both Henry and Adam with sympathetic traits. Henry wants what’s best for Adam, looking after him like a child. But this treatment isn’t happening fast enough by Polidori, who is desperate to report results and make money off of all of this. This conflict is one of two in this tale, paralleled with Adam’s struggle to regain his humanity. All elements work marvelously and reflects Shelley’s tale in an intricate way that most Frankenstein tales fail.
Another thing that sets this film apart is Fessenden’s unique cinematography. Fessenden uses quick montages of images, simple overlays of color and light, and other rudimentary (but effective) camera effects that gives even more substance and style. This is a technique Fessenden has used before in films such as WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER. Though this technique has been used by other directors (Aronofsky’s REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, for example), it feels like Fessenden’s unique stamp on each of his films. I would love to see Fessenden get his hands on a big budget film. He has been behind the scenes for way too long and has been a major trumpeter for many of the best voices in today’s horror game. Maybe he is comfortable with the low budget control and personal take to all of his own films, but I’d love to see what this soulful and passionate filmmaker would do with a couple of mill. That said, DEPRAVED is truly one of the best modern FRANKENSTEIN adaptations you’re going to find.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#24 – DEPRAVED
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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