01st Sep2023

Frightfest 2023: ‘Suitable Flesh’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Heather Graham, Barbara Crampton, Johnathon Schaech, Bruce Davison, Drake Malone, Judah Lewis | Written by Dennis Paoli | Directed by Joe Lynch

Directed by FrightFest favourite Joe Lynch, Suitable Flesh is a deliberate homage to the work of director Stuart Gordon (who died in 2020), specifically his adaptations of the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, such as Re-Animator, From Beyond and Castle Freak. Sadly, though it definitely has its moments, the end result is something of a mixed bag.

Set in the Miskatonic University hospital facility (where Re-Animator took place), the film begins with psychiatrist Dr Danielle Upton (longtime Gordon collaborator and all-around horror superstar Barbara Crampton) investigating her disturbed psych ward patient Elizabeth (Heather Graham), also a former psychiatrist. As Elizabeth relates her tale, flashbacks reveal that she became obsessed with handsome young patient Asa Waite (Judah Lewis), who was suffering with paranoid delusions.

However, it soon becomes clear that Asa is something far more sinister, and that he might be possessed by an ancient demon known as Kamog, who’s capable of passing from host to host, causing each new conquest to act out lustful desires. Eventually, all manner of body-swapping mayhem breaks loose, as Danielle realises she may have bitten off more than she can chew.

The script for Suitable Flesh has a number of nice ideas, including gender-swapping the characters from the original story, to strong effect. However, it’s let down by a number of other factors, not least that the production values are painfully cheap, making the film look like poorly lit straight-to-DVD fare.

Similarly, the performances are frustrating. While it’s commendable that the film focuses on older female protagonists than is usual for the genre, Heather Graham never really convinces as Elizabeth, either in her possessed scenes or her unpossessed scenes. In particular, she fails to generate any chemistry whatsoever with Judah Lewis, which almost stalls the movie in its tracks, since her obsession with him is crucial to the plot. (In fairness, she sparks appealing chemistry with Jonathon Schaech, who has a likeable turn as her unsuspecting nice-guy husband).

For his part, Lewis also fails to convince, coming across as the latest bland prettyboy actor rather than managing to convey anything remotely sinister or threatening. On the plus side, Crampton is as wonderful as ever, and her performance is the clear highlight of the film.

Lynch’s direction is also something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he delivers a couple of inspired horror moments, most notably a splattery kill viewed through a car’s rear-view TV camera screen, as a character repeatedly backs a car into somebody to murder them. However, he fails to make the sex scenes come to life, which is a bit of a disappointment for a self-described “erotic horror body-swap thriller”.

On a similar note, the pacing of Suitable Flesh flags considerably in the middle section and the stuff with Lewis’ character is frequently tedious. That being said, the action picks up considerably in the chaotic final twenty minutes or so, when the film finally starts being the kind of fun-filled ride that it should have been all the way through.

** 2/5

Suitable Flesh screened as part of this year’s Frightfest London


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