This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.
FrightFest favourite Joe Lynch returns with another delightfully absurd offering that opened this year's eagerly-anticipated genre event. A unique and saucy love letter to Re-Animator and its lauded director Stuart Gordon, Suitable Flesh, based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep, fits seamlessly in Gordon's world of Lovecraftian body horrors and caused a ruckus with crowds during its European premiere.
Written by Re-Animator's Dennis Paoli and starring its leading lady Barbara Crampton, Suitable Flesh follows psychiatrist Elizabeth Derby (Heather Graham) whose perfect life with an adoring husband (Johnathon Schaech) and successful career is turned upside down when a mystery patient comes knocking at her door. The terrified young man Asa Waite (Judah Lewis) confides in her that he is being possessed by his father (Bruce Davison) and is terrified to return home, a claim Elizabeth puts down to him suffering from an extreme personality disorder. However, she is soon drawn into a warped sexual thrill ride filled with supernatural horrors and murderous rage.
The nostalgic eighties aesthetics and abundance of Lovecraft easter-eggs within Suitable Flesh make it a must-watch for fans of the genre – or those with a soft spot for erotic scenes, twirling cameras and corny saxophone solos. In a time where horror sex scenes often feel somewhat sanitised, Suitable Flesh provides some much-needed release as it catapults from one racy encounter to the next with dialogue that could make some of the most hardened film fans blush.
Its sexual content is spliced up with lashings of body-swapping madness that, rather than focusing on the gooey and grotesque, hones in on the psychological torment Derby experiences at the hands of a malevolent force that strives to find the perfect human body to inhabit. Its narrative is a straightforward one that allows fans the chance to focus on getting to know the characters within, carried by strong performances from the ensemble cast throughout.
Austin Powers star Heather Graham stuns in the role of Derby, as she channels varying personalities with unnerving and marvellous precision. Similarly, The Babysitter‘s Judah Lewis delivers an impressive performance as Asa, portraying both the cowering man desperate for help, as well as the possessed object of Derby's attraction. Barbara Crampton further cements her status as a horror icon, kicking human and cosmic ass in her hunt for truth as Derby's best friend Daniella.
A horny, hair-raising tale of cosmic terror and body horror, Suitable Flesh harkens back to the steamy days of eighties erotic horror while giving a new generation of genre fans a fresh tale of obsession, desire, and Lovecraftian delights.
Suitable Flesh had its European premiere at FrightFest 2023 on August 24. It will be released in UK cinemas and on TVOD on October 27.