The landscape of H.P. Lovecraft adaptations seemed to fall off the edge of the world when the great Stuart Gordon passed away. The man behind some of the best horror flicks of all-time like Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, and The Pit and the Pendulum had a specific style. Enter Joe Lynch, someone who comes from the school of Stuart Gordon and other Masters of Horror. Add into that a longtime Gordon collaborator in Dennis Paoli and add producer Brian Yuzna and you can see how Suitable Flesh came together. Only when you get a look at the cast, which includes horror queen Barbara Crampton, Bruce Davison, Judah Lewis, and a showstopping performance from Heather Graham, can you see the potential of Suitable Flesh.

Even as a love letter to the style of Stuart Gordon, it’s not just a love fest for that man and his movies. It’s more than that, and it might pay homage, but it never apes his style. Joe Lynch, through his directing and his influence on other aspects of the film, like the music, adds his own style. The story here adapts Lovecraft’s “The Thing On The Doorstep.” It does change up the formula of that short story a bit. It flips around characters and obviously is padded out more to fit a feature length.

The basics is that Elizabeth Derby (Heather Graham) is a psychiatrist, and a patient, Asa (Judah Lewis), shows up to her practice with what she thinks is multiple personality disorder. What she finds is that Asa might actually be possessed by an ancient evil that’s been body-hopping for longer than it can remember. The story is told in a film noir style, with Elizabeth relaying the story to her friend Danielle (Crampton), a fellow doctor. From there, we get all the hallmarks of a pulpy, gooey, gross, mean-spirited, and thrilling adaptation.

The film centers on Elizabeth and Asa and both actors get to take on multiple roles throughout. When the entity switches bodies between characters, it gives plenty of work for the performers to channel the other person. Graham in particular, gets to have a lot of fun with it. She switches between concerned Elizabeth, helpless Asa, sexy/violent Entity, and other people as the film goes on. You can tell she had a great time with this. The whole film rests on her shoulders and she carries it. Judah Lewis sheds some of his Christmas Chronicles-skin here and gives off a devilish performance. He’s good when he’s playing normal Asa, but when he’s the Entity, he turns on overdrive. The subtle facial expressions, mannerisms, and movements are all top-notch.

Barbara Crampton steps in as the “frame” (the person getting told the story) here but then ends up as a huge part of the story down the line. She’s obviously great. This is her wheelhouse as a performer; she made her bread on Lovecraft adaptations, and she continues it here. She even gets in some action later in the film. Just when you think her character is just kind of uptight, it flips.

The rest of the cast including Davison, Johnathon Schaech, and JD Evermore are all good to great in their roles. Schaech plays Eddie Derby, and he has to react to Elizabeth, basically changing bodies, making strange decisions, and everything else. He’s relatable (besides the washboard abs) and does a good job getting off the emotion of dense scenes, like when Elizabeth tells him she’s cheated on him or others later in the film.

The movie is sexy, violent, and really hits the accelerator in the third act. If you’re a prude, you might not like this movie. It’s very open about sexuality and violence. However, if you know the filmography of Stuart Gordon, and that ’90s erotic thriller styling, you’ll be right at home. Suitable Flesh is a movie that we don’t get to see very often these days because everything has to be squeaky clean and brilliant. It might have moments of squeaky cleanliness, but that’s all disrupted by sex, blood, and gore. The false walls fall down, and you’re left with a raging drive for sex and violence, just like the Entity in the film.

For anyone who wants a bit more eroticism and horror in their thriller, Suitable Flesh gives that and more.

Suitable Flesh releases in theaters and VOD on October 27th, 2023 and on Shudder in January 2024.

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