Suitable Flesh

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After wowing crowds at Fantastia Fest and Frightfest hype for Joe Lynch’s latest film Suitable Flesh has been high. Adapted from Lovecraft’s ‘The Thing on the Doorstep’ by Dennis Paoli (the man behind Stuart Gordon’s iconic 80’s Lovecraft adaptations) Suitable Flesh is a camp creeping tale of spiritual terror and body swapping led by two fantastic performances from Heather Graham and Barbara Crampton. 

Graham plays Dr Elizabeth Derby, a psychiatrist with a great career and a loving husband (an often topless Johnathon Schaech). Things fall apart though after she meets a young man (Judah Lewis) who is either schizophrenic or caught in a nightmare of possession. 

Lynch’s latest is a welcome pivot from his usual high energy antics. As far as Lovecraft adaptations go it’s a more low-key affair than the iconic films Paoli wrote in the 80’s. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. Lynch is a more restrained director than Stuart Gordon who imbibed Re-Animator and From Beyond with a kind of madcap lunacy that seared them into the rosters of midnight horror marathons for generations to come. Lynch is definitely more focused on the metaphysical horror of Lovecraft, but not so much that he loses the fun of that 80’s nostalgia. With Suitable Flesh, Paoli brings his writing into a more restrained arena and Lynch brings it to life with his own unique style whilst quietly nodding to and invoking the camp soul of Gordon. 

Not least through the involvement of Gordon stalwart and genre icon Barbara Crampton. In the last decade or so Crampton’s innate charisma and magnetism has seen her enjoy a revival of sorts. You’re Next, Beyond the Gates, We Are Still Here, she’s had a streak of superb scripts which really understand her strengths as a performer and the love genre fans have for her. 

Here she delivers another ace turn, proving the ace up Lynch’s sleeve when Suitable Flesh falters. Which it doesn’t often do. The pairing of Crampton and Graham (especially when Graham is in full-blooded horny villain mode) is a blast and the two have undeniable chemistry, so much so that you’ll wish they had more screen time together. Same goes for Bruce Davison who provides a mean but characteristically watchable supporting performance, along with a great cameo from Graham Skipper (The Mind’s Eye, Sequence Break). 

Its a camp affair that can, in one scene, be overwhelmingly daft, cringe, heartfelt and tense. Its testament to the ability of its performers and Lynch’s tight control of the atmosphere that much of the film doenst fall flat on its face. Exquisitely stupid moments of body swapping are grounded in the nightmare of perverse erotica and flourishes of visceral violence. Lynch is no stranger to gore (see Mayhem for details) and doesn’t shy from some wonderfully macabre practical effects. The promises of spiritual chaos set-up in the first act find full fruition in a disturbing bonkers third act. 

Suitable Flesh is a triumph for nostalgic genre fans, particularly folks who live for that brand of schlocky but intense 80’s daftness. The pairing of Crampton and Graham is an absolute delight, Paoli’s writing is as sharp and fun as ever, and Lynch proves a dab hand at juggling tones and executing camp carnage. 


Scott Clark 

Dir. Joe Lynch 

Stars. Heather Graham, Barbara Crampton, Judah Lewis, Bruce Davison, Graham Skipper,  Johnathon Schaech

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