And Cthulhu said, “Let there be kink,” and there was kink. And it was good! Good and grody and goofy, oh my—director Joe Lynch’s fresh new horror blast Suitable Flesh is all of that with some extra sexy gunk plunked on top for good measure. Riding in at the exact right moment post-Malignant and M3GAN upon the new wave of fun-fronted horror—the art-house trend (let’s please retire “elevated horror”) seems to be on the way out, while audiences seem to be ready to feel like we’re sitting in the front row of a GWAR concert again. And Suitable Flesh has got them gnarly goods.
An adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s 1933 body-swapping story “The Thing on the Doorstep,” Flesh stars the wildly under-used Heather Graham (where you been girl?) as Elizabeth Derby, a psychiatrist who at story’s start finds herself quite locked up in the loony bin, padded walls and uncombed hair and all the accouterments of a breakdown firmly in place. Her doctor Daniella Upton (horror queen Barbara Crampton, because obviously), also her best friend, wants to believe Elizabeth’s story. But as we sit back and listen to Elizabeth tell her tale it’s, uhh, understandable that Dr. Upton might have a myriad of doubts.
As we fade into flashbacks Derby tells us of how one evening, just as she was about to close up her office, a mysterious young man named Asa (Judah Lewis from Summer of 84 and I See You) appeared with his own fantastical tale. Ranting and raving about how his father wants to use his body, Asa is frantic—frantic until he gets a phone call and immediately changes personality. Suddenly calm, cool, and decidedly sleazy, Derby swats away Asa’s lecherous advances but finds herself intrigued nonetheless. Could this young man be the next big psychological case study for her to make her name with?
But we quickly realize that Elizabeth’s interest in Asa’s case might also be a little mixed-up with some less scientifically-inclined feelings. And we learn it in explicit detail as she goes home that night and immediately imagines her husband (Johnathon Schaech) mid-coitus replaced by the young man. Sordid! Soapy! And slightly ridiculous, because who the hell would swap a bonafide hunk like Johnathon Schaech out with anybody else? But it’s too late—Asa’s now the mentally unstable bee in her bonnet, and no muscle-god-in-matrimony’s stopping his sinister influence over her.
From there things only get more sordid and more soapy and more ridiculously fun, as Dr. Derby shreds up her oath for some straight-up Skinemax-flavored doctor-patient sexy-times with her new favorite half-her-age nutcase. Never mind that the boy seems to be inseminating her with actual possession! Not when their desktop trysts are so sizzlin! But guilt, and also insanity, starts to eat away at Elizabeth. Especially when she goes to visit Asa’s creepy father (Bruce Davidson) and he flops around and screams a bunch, and then she discovers the secret door in the floor…
If you’ve ever seen any of director Stuart Gordon’s classic Lovecraft adaptations—those would be Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Dagon—then you should be very much prepared for Suitable Flesh, which was built to sit right in alongside that trilogy o’ goopy terror. And I mean that literally—the script was written long ago by Dennis Paoli, who wrote all three of those Gordon films, while Gordon had been trying to get it produced for years before he passed in 2020. It was Gordon’s lifetime collaborator Crampton (a producer here alongside co-starring in that juicy role of Dr. Upton) who brought the script to Lynch, and together they concocted a movie that would have made Gordon very proud. And probably giddy. Definitely giddy.
Balancing the horror and the humor and the deranged horniness that Gordon mined so perfectly out of Lovecraft all those many previous times, Suitable Flesh feels like a time-machine straight back to those seminal video-store days where a VHS cover’s disgusting artwork would be all we needed to hand over two hours of our lives, and we’d be gifted back in kind with all the sweetest sorts of lunacies. The movie gets better and bolder and more deliciously bonkers as it steams along, body-swaps piling up on body-swaps, with everybody’s selfhoods giving way to slippery, brain-splattering confusion.
And naturally, this Flesh will be a feast for trans viewers and writers—when the ancient force committing all this body-swapping decides it really likes the way mounting Johnathon Schaech feels, I sure was sold anyway. But as that sentence makes clear this movie doesn’t take any of its subtext too seriously—not when it can give us a shot for the ages of a man being run over repeatedly via the car’s dashboard rear-view cam. Silly, soapy, fantastic, gross! All the senses! Suitable Flesh is a rampage of old-school horror good-timery, and your body might burst at its seams from the extreme pleasure of its company.
‘Suitable Flesh’ is in limited theaters and on VOD