Legendary B-movie director Stuart Gordon left behind an incredible legacy of deliriously entertaining horror films that brought the works of H.P. Lovecraft to grisly, kinky life on the big screen. Though Gordon sadly passed away in 2020, his spirit lives on in director Joe Lynch’s feverish new offering Suitable Flesh. This raunchy, mind-bending thriller serves as both an adaptation of Lovecraft’s short story “The Thing on the Doorstep” as well as a loving homage to Gordon’s signature aesthetic and frequent muse Barbara Crampton.
Lynch, known for his work on horror-comedies like Wrong Turn 2 and Mayhem, takes the reins on a project originally conceived by Gordon and screenwriter Dennis Paoli. With its liberal doses of graphic violence, sexual perversity, and psychological horror, Suitable Flesh makes it clear from the outset that this a true spiritual successor to Gordon classics like Re-Animator and From Beyond.
In this review, we’ll break down all the kinky, freaky elements that make Suitable Flesh a worthy entry into the “MiskatonicVerse” of Lovecraft adaptations. Strap in as we explore whether Lynch captured the master’s special sauce or if this Flesh fest leaves a bad taste.
A Psychiatrist’s Plunge into Madness
Suitable Flesh centers around Dr. Elizabeth Derby (Heather Graham), an accomplished psychiatrist who seems to have it all – a thriving practice, doting husband, and close friendship with colleague Dr. Daniella Upton (Barbara Crampton). Her charmed life begins unraveling after taking on a new patient named Asa Waite (Judah Lewis). The troubled young man claims he sporadically becomes possessed by his ill father Ephraim (Bruce Davison), resulting in dramatic shifts in personality and memory.
Though initially dismissing Asa’s claims as mere delusions, Elizabeth’s curiosity is piqued after visiting Ephraim, who greets her while poring over a sinister ancient tome filled with profane rituals and creatures. Her fascination with Asa soon crosses professional boundaries, as she begins having lustful visions about her patient, ultimately leading to a steamy encounter in her office.
Shortly after, Elizabeth experiences the shocking personality transfers firsthand. Finding herself involuntarily swapping bodies with Asa after sex, she desperately tries to convince others of what’s happening, to no avail. Even her closest friend Daniella diagnoses Elizabeth as schizophrenic, committing her to a psych ward.
As Elizabeth and Asa continue ping-ponging minds, chaos ensues. During one switch, Elizabeth’s body is controlled by a lecherous male entity intent on manipulating her flesh for perverse pleasure. Another swap results in a twisted tryst between Elizabeth and her husband Edward (Jonathon Schaech), involving BDSM and blades.
With identities becoming blurred beyond recognition, grotesque violence escalates. Elizabeth – or whatever is controlling her body – commits murder, mutilating a corpse in the process. Now locked up as a suspected psychotic killer, Elizabeth seems doomed until she can prove her unbelievable story is true. But will anyone believe her? Or has she lost her grasp on reality forever?
An Erotic Mind Meld of Madness
On the surface, Suitable Flesh utilizes depraved sex and extreme violence to deliver gratuitous thrills. But beneath the graphic mayhem lies profound themes exploring gender, sanity, identity, and the darker recesses of desire.
The film wields sex as the primary conduit for its signature body swapping, adding an erotic twist to the violation. During intense arousal, the characters’ psyches become unmoored, open to invasion from malevolent forces. This vulnerability highlights society’s tendency to demonize female sexuality, punishing women for carnal transgressions.
The dichotomy between sanity and madness also takes center stage. As Elizabeth experiences the involuntary swaps, her grip on reality slips. Yet she’s dismissed as merely hysterical – an echo of how the medical establishment historically marginalized women by declaring them irrational. Even Elizabeth’s close friend, a female psychiatrist, brands her delusional. Suitable Flesh asks us to consider how quickly we judge others to be insane when not sharing their perspective.
Most profoundly, the film explores the fragility of identity and selfhood. As their minds repeatedly swap bodies, Elizabeth and Asa’s senses of self fracture. Who are they anymore amidst the chaos? What constitutes one’s true essence? Is identity merely an illusion we cling to? These questions leave characters and viewers alike disoriented about the nature of existence.
Gender dynamics reveal further complexity. When a male spirit inhabits Elizabeth’s body, he relishes the foreign experience of womanhood. Elizabeth finds her female form appraised by male gazes whenever possessed. Such objectification hints at society’s imposition of gender roles. However, Asa also inhabits his mother’s body at one point, underscoring gender’s fluid, performative nature.
By plunging us into an eroticized nightmare where sanity crumbles and selves splinter, Suitable Flesh crafts a mind-bending exploration of desire’s danger and the self’s fragility. The film’s extremity may shock, but those who peer deeper will find rewarding substance lurking within the stylistic excess.
Standout Performances Add Depth to Debauchery
While the script supplies copious shock value, the actors elevate Suitable Flesh with committed performances that lend emotional resonance to the outlandish happenings. As protagonist Elizabeth, Heather Graham anchors the film with a bravura display of range. She deftly captures Elizabeth’s professional poise, sexual yearning, panicked disbelief, and utter madness as personalities shift and fuse. Graham’s work lends grounded humanity even when events slide into the absurd.
As Elizabeth’s unhinged patient and love interest Asa, Judah Lewis exhibits similar versatility. He alternates between portraying Asa as brooding and sympathetic, then smug and nefarious once the character becomes a vessel for his father Ephraim. Lewis nails these hairpin turns, portraying distinct personas inhabiting one body.
Horror legend Barbara Crampton pays homage to her cult classic roles, bringing gravitas to the role of Dr. Daniella Upton. She projects intelligence and empathy as Elizabeth’s confidante, as well as palpable concern once Elizabeth descends into apparent psychosis. Her rapport with Graham crackles, two generations of scream queens uniting.
While his role proves more subdued, Jonathan Schaech makes for a grounded and likable presence as Elizabeth’s loyal husband Edward. Bruce Davison also impresses in limited screen time as Ephraim, amplifying the character’s malevolence using just voice and mannerisms.
By tapping into pathos and humanity, the cast enrich the depraved proceedings with sympathetic performances. While reveling in the story’s sensationalistic elements, the actors ensure we care what happens to these people caught in an increasingly deranged situation. Their commitment makes the horror hit harder.
Lynch Captures the Spirit of 80s Horror Madness
With his dizzying camerawork, lurid tone and aesthetic nods, director Joe Lynch proves he’s the perfect successor to carry on Stuart Gordon’s brand of surreal horror insanity. Lynch’s directing style immediately recalls the excessive qualities of Gordon’s most unhinged films.
The camerawork amplifies the increasingly unhinged mindsets of characters. During the body swapping sex scenes, Lynch employs 360 degree camera spins, crash zooms and frantic editing to vividly visualize the disorienting psychic fusion. And throughout the film, canted Dutch angles create discomfort and dislocation.
Lynch drenches the film in Gothic atmosphere using lighting and production design. Shadowy interiors of mansions and hospitals heighten sense of otherworldly menace. The palette often sports greens and purples, evoking a nightmarish, fantastical quality. Props like ancient spell books directly callback the 80s era of practical movie “magic.”
The synth-heavy score establishes the retro vibe, as do creative decisions like accenting a sex scene with saxophone riffs reminiscent of old-school erotic thrillers. These stylistic flourishes transport the viewer back to horror’s gloriously garish past.
By melding old and new influences, Lynch manufactures a viewing experience both comforting in its familiarity and exciting in its extremism. For lovers of Gordon’s distinctive brand of scary-sexy-bizarre schlock, Suitable Flesh offers a new yet nostalgic cinematic pleasure. Lynch follows in the footsteps of weird cinema masters while leaving his own deranged footprint.
A Fitting Follow-Up to a Horror Legend
By the end of Suitable Flesh’s brisk 95 minute runtime, it’s clear Joe Lynch pulled off an impressive balancing act. He delivered a blood-soaked tribute to horror pioneer Stuart Gordon that maintains a contemporary edge. Both a faithful adaptation of Lovecraft and an original freakshow, this sexy, gory romp summed up Gordon’s provocative ethos while forging its own identity.
The movie resurrects the kinky, comedic spirit of Gordon favorites like Re-Animator and From Beyond. Lynch exhibits a fan’s attentive eye for detail, packing the film with references to the master’s oeuvre, from character names to props like the Necronomicon. It’s a love letter that should delight Gordon devotees.
Yet Suitable Flesh is far from a hollow pastiche. Lynch instills the film with its own berserk energy thanks to stylistic flourishes like wildly careening camerawork and psychedelic transitions. Heather Graham’s magnetic lead performance also adds a modern sheen of feminine empowerment. This injects just enough originality into the vintage homage.
For horror hounds craving some freaky midnight movie madness, Suitable Flesh satisfies. It pulls off the delicate balance between nostalgia and innovation. Viewers are left grinning, likely as Gordon would have been himself. Lynch has taken up the mantle of his mentor admirably. Here’s hoping more unrestrained oddities like this continue the maestro’s legacy for years to come.