Suitable Flesh - New Release Review
Director: Joe Lynch
Starring: Heather Graham, Judah Lewis, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Davison
Written by: Dennis Paoli
Produced by: Barbara Crampton, Bob Portal, Inderpal Singh, Joe Wicker
Cinematography by: David Matthews
Original Score by: Steve Moore
A psychiatrist becomes obsessed with one of her young clients with multiple personalities.
When H.P. Lovecraft wrote the story 'The Thing on the Doorstep' I don't think he would have ever anticipated someone adapting his story in the way Joe Lynch has with 'Suitable Flesh'. A gender swapped take on the macabre tale, it follows a respected psychiatrist who becomes too close to a client with multiple personality disorder leading to all sorts of psycho-sexual issues and bloody mayhem.
A loving tribute to horror icon Stuart Gordon who passed away in 2020, the film is written by Gordon's frequent collaborator Dennis Paoli and stars frequent collaborator Barbara Crampton (who is also a producer on the film). It is very much in the spirit of Gordon's other adaptations of Lovecraft's work including 'Re-Animator' and 'From Beyond' in how they take a different approach through their contemporary settings. As the director of the film Joe Lynch leans heavily into injecting some eroticism into the work of the author's sexless writing in a similar manner to Gordon's adaptations of the 80's.
It isn't just Gordon that Lynch pays homage to with this film but a number of directors from the 80's and early 90's. The most prominent influence is that of Brian De Palma whose work of that era looms large over the film through its use of soft focus, dutch angles and split diopter throughout. These techniques utilised by cinematographer David Matthews do a fine job at not just replicating the look of horror films and erotic thrillers of that era but in keeping the action moving throughout the film, even when styles shift from scene to scene. When it comes to the sex scenes and any scene containing gory violence there's almost a gleeful indulgence at play but no matter how over the top they become you never feel like they are exploitative. It works towards keeping the B Movie charm to the film alive throughout.
This is also propelled by the cast who throw themselves completely into their respective roles which on paper would be difficult given the amount of personality changes through the various scenes of body swapping. As Dr. Elizabeth Derby, Heather Graham makes the transition from the constrained psychiatrist fascinated by Asa's (Judah Lewis) case to sexually free maniac with ease. There is an undercurrent of repressed sexuality to her character which Graham relishes at turning loose in the latter half of the film to the amusement of everyone watching the film. Credit too must go to Judah Lewis' body hopping performance as he embodies the distinct characteristics of every character that takes control of his body through both obvious and nuanced ticks. Barbara Crampton does a fine job too at grounding the film from spiralling off into complete madness and Bruce Davison is great in his small but impactful role that sets the tone of the film.
Regarding the tone, the film initially was quite jarring due to the score almost overwhelming the film but once you settle into the ludicrously entertaining tone Lynch is going for it becomes less of a distraction. In leaning into its 80's horror influences it goes all out with the blood and gore with some impressive practical work by the special effects and makeup team featuring one of the most creative kills I've seen in a horror film for quite some time. As good as this aspect of the film is, it seems to detract from the gender politics that lack any real depth within the writing. Anytime you get the feeling the film is going to go into these themes with depth they get sidetracked. It seems like Lynch wants to go for the jugular amplifying the erotic and bloody elements above all else which isn't necessarily a bad thing for a film of this ilk.
In an age where talk of sex in a film has become a taboo subject, Joe Lynch has completely ignored the discourse around it to craft a real throwback to the work of the great Stuart Gordon. In maximising these elements and the bloody horror he makes what is a thoroughly entertaining piece of horror that stands out amongst the more sombre films the genre has been producing lately. In short 'Suitable Flesh' is more than a suitable replacement for the kind of film Gordon produced, it feels like a loving goodbye to one of the genre's most respected filmmakers.
'Suitable Flesh' will be in UK Cinemas from 27th October and available on Digital Download from 27th November