Monday, October 23, 2023

Suitable Flesh, from Barbara Crampton & Team Stuart Gordon

Appropriately, this Lovecraft film starts in a padded cell. It then flashes back a few weeks to Miskatonic University, which is ominous but also quite fitting. Originally written with the late, great Lovecraftian filmmaker Stuart Gordon in mind, Dennis Paoli’s screenplay is the perfect vehicle to get the old gang back together, including executive producer Brian Yuzna and producer Barbara Crampton, who also co-stars in Joe Lynch’s Suitable Flesh, releasing this Friday in theaters and wherever you rent movies.

Dr. Elizabeth Derby is in an agitated state. She insists her friend and colleague, Dr. Danielle Upton must destroy “the brain” before it is too late. That definitely sounds crazy, but Dr. Upton will be seeing some crazy stuff during the course of this film. So will Dr. Derby when Asa Waite walks into her office, very much like Lester Billings in
The Boogeyman, but worse. Waite clearly needs help for his schizophrenic behavior and what Derby assumes is an acute multiple personality disorder. She also feels a reckless sexual attraction to him, which makes her even more vulnerable to what will happen.

Soon, Derby discovers Waite was plagued by a body-swapping entity that becomes a full-blown body-snatcher after the third transference. She will need the help of her friend, Dr. Derby, to avoid such a fate, but convincing her without sounding crazy will be tricky. She also worries what the elder god-worshipping body-hijacker might do to her husband, Edward.

Paoli, who previously wrote
Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon, and “Dreams in the Witch House,” certainly knows his way around a Lovecraft adaptation. Despite some Cthulhu imagery, Suitable Flesh does not feel as Lovecraftian as other Lovecraft films, but it very identifiably (and somewhat kind of faithfully) based on his story, “The Thing on the Door Step.” Regardless, it is a charmingly unhinged movie, featuring spectacular freakouts from its stars, Heather Graham and Crampton, who are absolutely amazing as Dr. Derby and Dr. Upton, respectively.

Judah Lewis and the great character actor Bruce Davison (who is also becoming a horror star in his own right, thanks to work in
Creepshow, The Manor, From the Shadows, and the like) are similarly freaky and sinister as Waite and his father, Ephraim. You can also look for Graham Skipper playing a horrible morgue attendant.

Lynch notably dials up the sex, which harkens back to
From Beyond, but frankly this film surpasses it. Regardless, this is an ensemble of grown-ups, who look fantastic on-screen, including Johnathon Schaech as Edward Derby, so let’s hear it for the 50-plus set.

Suitable Flesh
is also always massively creepy. In fact, Lynch builds to relentlessly wild climax that will have genre fans shouting their appreciation, even if they are watching at home, by themselves. Plus, Steve Moore’s soundtrack so perfectly evokes the vibe of Gordon’s classic films, it is doubly eerie. Recommended as the most satisfying Lovecraft adaptation in years, Suitable Flesh opens Friday (10/27) in New York, at the Lower Manhattan Drafthouse.