By Isabella Soares
October 26, 2023
THE BIG PICTURE
- Heather Graham and Barbara Crampton deliver outstanding performances in the chaotic and erotic horror film Suitable Flesh, showcasing their ability to instantly change personalities while maintaining the same mannerisms of the unknown spirit.
- Director Joe Lynch’s purposeful direction creates a pattern for the body swap sequences, utilizing well-chosen angles and cleverly incorporating gore in a comedic way, while also highlighting the strong friendship between the female characters.
- The anxiety-inducing score and skillful editing enhance the spookiness and pacing of Suitable Flesh, effectively capturing the transition in the protagonist’s life and adding depth to the body swapping scenes. Overall, the film is a fresh and engaging Lovecraft adaptation with a balanced mix of chaos and psychological thrills.
An out-of-body experience is made raunchy and gruesome in Joe Lynch‘s latest cinematic effort, Suitable Flesh. The film is loosely inspired by H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Thing at The Doorstep, and it focuses on a psychiatrist gone mad after a young patient walks into her life with a personality disorder that leads to fatal consequences. With Heather Graham as the psychiatrist at hand and Judah Lewis as the troubled patient, this project proves to be an ode to Stuart Gordon (primarily due to its screenplay by Gordon’s frequent collaborator Dennis Paoli) and a fresh outlook on erotic horror with the reversal of the gender roles in Lovecraft’s short.
Heather Graham and Barbara Crampton Make ‘Suitable Flesh’ Chaotic in the Best Sense
When it comes to a body swap thriller like this, there has to be a core ensemble to keep the plot on the edge. Luckily, Suitable Flesh has three leads that ace their tasks. Graham’s Elizabeth Derby starts as a psychiatrist with a seemingly perfect life, whose world is taken by storm when Lewis’ Asa White shows up at her clinic filled with despair. The psychiatrist is about to tell him to book an appointment when she sees him having a seizure-like attack after answering a call from his father (Ephraim played by Bruce Davison). The once jittery patient adopts a devious smirk, forgetting anything that was mentioned before the horrific episode. Asa isn’t himself anymore, and his body is inhabited by a spirit that is both sexually charged and uncontrollable. This sight is Elizabeth’s first interaction with the unknown identity and its urge to find a desirable body to live in permanently.
After the spirit catches up to her and attempts to destroy her life forever, Elizabeth reaches out to longtime friend and colleague Dr. Dani Upton (played by the outstanding Barbara Crampton, who also produced the film) for help. Although Dani begins to question the protagonist’s sanity, she remains cautious about the situation until the very end. As Graham, Lewis, and Crampton work together to play the main trio in this chaotic, “out-of-body” experience, it is fascinating to see how they can instantly change personalities and still maintain the same mannerisms of the unknown spirit whenever it goes from one body to the next. The constant shifts become easy to digest because the actors are feeding off from each other’s performances. That is noticeable in the final sequence at the psychiatric hospital where the trio is put to the test.
Lynch’s Direction is Purposeful in Creating a Pattern for the Body Swaps
The ensemble’s success onscreen can be credited to Lynch’s direction, which is purposeful from start to finish. By choosing the best angles to shoot the body swap sequences and understanding when to include a sex scene in this erotic horror, Suitable Flesh never goes fully off the rails and that is a good thing. Although Lynch was inspired by Gordon’s takes on Lovecraft in films like Re-Animator and From Beyond, he doesn’t seek to copy the late filmmaker’s style. Gordon went overboard many times, and Lynch keeps his film afloat by making sure that the audience is fully aware of the plot and where it’s headed. He also taps into gory territory in a clever and even comedic way. From that deadly car scene to the bloody autopsy, the director shows that there is still room to get creative in horror, instead of relying on overplayed jump scares.
Another plus for the director is his choice to include two female powerhouses in the project, showcasing a friendship that prevails even when the evil spirit gets in the way. Both Graham and Upton are given opportunities to play smart and accomplished psychiatrists on one end and femme fatales on the other. Different from several films within the horror genre, the women here are far from being the victims, even when their minds are controlled by a devious force. Graham’s character has it right when she says “I’m daddy.”
The Score and Editing Make ‘Suitable Flesh’ Captivating
What would a horror film be without an anxiety-inducing score? This cinematic element goes hand-in-hand in making a story spooky, and Suitable Flesh also excels in this department. The score is cleverly woven by Steve Moore, and it is very subtle at the beginning of the film when Elizabeth is introduced. Elizabeth’s life at the office and alongside her husband Edward (played by Jonathon Schaech) is untethered by distress. And yet, Moore captures the transition in Elizabeth’s routine after Asa shows up by making the score unnerving. The progression to a darker melodic tone as the plot unveils helps keep the pacing of the film in check, without the score being too melodramatic.
The score and editing also pair well together, especially when it comes to the body swapping. The agitated shots, showcasing the physical and mental transformations that each character undergoes whenever the spirit invades them are marked by both the frenetic editing and the roaring score. As Jack N. Gracie (responsible for the editing) rapidly focuses on eyes rolling, fingers flexing, and backs arching, the body swapping scenes are made better by how well they match Moore’s score.
Overall, Suitable Flesh doesn’t have to be too spooky or jump-scare-filled to maintain the audience’s attention. Its strength relies on its ensemble, particularly the main trio, and how Lynch can make this Lovecraft adaptation fresh. Even though it pays homage to Gordon’s well-known filmography, it is far from being a carved copy of the late director’s style. The score and editing add to the erotic horror, never crossing the line when it comes to drama. All of these elements work together to maintain the film’s balance and the plot engaging. In short, this is the perfect cinematic venture for those who are fond of chaotic, psychological thrillers that keep you engaged, but that don’t keep you guessing when it all comes to a close.
Suitable Flesh is in theaters and available to stream on VOD in the U.S. starting October 26.
Lynch is repped by Anonymous Content and attorney Rob Szymanski.