Combustible Celluloid Review - Suitable Flesh (2023), Dennis Paoli, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, Joe Lynch, Heather Graham, Judah Lewis, Bruce Davison, Johnathon Schaech, Barbara Crampton
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With: Heather Graham, Judah Lewis, Bruce Davison, Johnathon Schaech, Barbara Crampton
Written by: Dennis Paoli, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft
Directed by: Joe Lynch
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 99
Date: 10/27/2023

Suitable Flesh (2023)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Body and Stole

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A throwback to certain beloved 1980s cult favorites, this twisted tale is exceedingly weird, somewhat darkly funny, and fairly edgy, in ways that may only appeal to the of freakiest of horror hounds.

A psychiatrist, Dr. Elizabeth Derby (Heather Graham), is being held in a padded room in a psychiatric hospital, having murdered a man. She recounts her story to a friend, Dr. Daniella Upton (Barbara Crampton). In flashback, Dr. Derby receives a visit to her office from Asa (Judah Lewis), who claims to be tormented by his father. He has a seizure, recovers, and begins behaving completely differently. At home with her husband (Johnathon Schaech), Dr. Derby can't stop thinking about Asa.

Later, she finds Asa's sick, elderly father Ephraim (Bruce Davison), near death. Asa pleads with her to let Ephraim die, but before that happens, Ephraim speaks an incantation that, once again, causes Asa to have a seizure and begin behaving differently. Then, Asa speaks the incantation and switches bodies with Dr. Derby! She slowly realizes that whatever is inside Asa now has power over her, too, and she must find a way to stop it.

Surprisingly, Suitable Flesh features a screenplay by the legendary Dennis Paoli, who began in the 1980s adapting H.P. Lovecraft stories to the big screen with the late director Stuart Gordon, making classics like Re-Animator and From Beyond, and finding a clever blend of humor to exist alongside Lovecraft's unnamable terrors. (Other Gordon regulars, star Barbara Crampton and producer Brian Yuzna, have returned as well.)

Adapted from the 1933 story "The Thing on the Doorstep," Suitable Flesh is Paoli's first screenplay in over two decades, and he has found a suitable new partner in director Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Mayhem). Their finished movie is bonkers, garish, and sometimes (perhaps purposefully?) awkward; Dr. Derby makes some very obvious wrong choices for a horror movie character. It embraces gore, and human sexuality as well. It's a full-body horror movie.

On the whole, it's not as finely tuned as one of Gordon's classics (and not as imaginative as another recent Lovecraft adaptation, Color Out of Space), but it has the power to give jaded viewers something they might not have seen before.

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