H.P. Lovecraft is easily one of the least sexy writers of all time but that hasn’t stopped director Joe Lynch (Mayhem) from dusting off one of ole grandad’s tentacle-less tales and spinning it into a true-blue Erotic Thriller. Paying homage to the prestige De Palma’s pictures that elevated the genre, and the trashier lesser-known titles that flooded the early 90s, Suitable Flesh is a dreamy, steamy, soft-core vibe full of body-swapping & bonin’ down.
Set in the Miskatonic Universe, this tawdry tale takes a break from the weird gods and even weirder monsters that make up so many of Lovecraft’s other stories. Elizabeth Derby (played by Heather Graham) is a psychiatrist specializing in dissociative identity disorder whose life gets flip-turned upside-down after meeting with a mysterious new patient, named Asa Waite (Judah Lewis, The Babysitter).
“Suitable Flesh is a dreamy, steamy, soft-core vibe”
Half-crazy and completely terrified to talk out loud about his situation, Asa claims that someone is trying to take over his body. Thinking this is just an elaborate projection of his disorder, she assumes him to be harmless but something about the young man’s alter ego opens an untapped well of desire inside Elizabeth that she can’t resist. Jeopardizing her career and her marriage, Elizabeth meets with Asa outside of normal office hours but a sudden, terrifying event tears apart Elizabeth’s understanding of the world and sends her down a path where identity and agency are the playthings for a powerful entity.
If you’re a fan of erotic thrillers (and weirdly also cosmic horror) you’re going to have a great time with the aesthetic of Suitable Flesh. It’s got the same soft focus and over-sexed dialogue of every late-night thriller you secretly watched on USA Up All Night (or Baby Blue 2 if you were north of the border in Toronto, Canada). Those late 80s/early 90s flicks were the heyday of the erotic thriller and it’s clear that those seductive (but not smutty), provocative (but not pornographic) stories served as the main inspiration for Lynch’s entry into this bizarre body-swapping fantasy. The recreation is spot-on but unless you’re also a student of straight-to-video soft core, it might just make the movie look like it’s wearing its budget on its s̶l̶e̶e̶v̶e̶ negligee.
For the true Lovecraft obsessed, Suitable Flesh plays like another strange tale from the misguided medical department of the Mistakonic University. Whole sequences look as though they were shot on the same sets as Re-Animator but the familiar Lovecraftian charm of it all doesn’t stop there. Barbara Crampton (Jakob’s Wife) stars as Elizabeth’s best friend and fellow doctor Daniella Upton, charged with making sense of this impossible nightmare that has consumed Elizabeth.
Behind the scenes, the story comes from Denis Paoli, one of the mind’s responsible for a laundry list of classic horror films (including From Beyond and Castle Freak), and frequent collaborator with writer/director/all-round Lovecraft obsessive Stuart Gordon. Suitable Flesh is an all-hands-on-deck project that picks up where Gordon left off, while also trying to breathe some seductive new life into the text of a man that seemed as prudish as so many modern sexless movies.
“…has a hard time juggling it’s horror with it’s horny, but features a ton of fun camera tricks, gore, and shirtless moments.”
Filming an x-rated mainstream thriller seemed to be a pretty common goal for many filmmakers at the end of the analog era but only a handful ever came close. And while there’s no doubt that Suitable Flesh is as revved-up as those classic boundary-pushers, it doesn’t always tip the scales into sexy. Like so many erotic thrillers that have come before, The body-swapping element of this particular piece of eroticism adds a fun layer of gender exploration but it has a hard time juggling its horny with its horror.
Full of fun camera tricks, gore, and a couple of dozen shirtless moments, Suitable Flesh is a down-n-dirty romp through the twisted mind of horror’s first true weirdo. It’s a cool modern twist on crotchety old HP’s original text, and I’m sure he’s rolling in his grave over the whole affair. It’s likely a matter of taste to say “not sexy enough for me” but there’s no denying its authenticity as a throwback erotic thriller. This one just happens to have a lot more blood and guts and supernatural mayhem than your average softcore shocker.
[Review] SUITABLE FLESH is A Body-Swapping Erotic Thriller That Would Make Lovecraft Blush
Full of fun camera tricks, gore, and a couple of dozen shirtless moments, Suitable Flesh is a down-n-dirty romp through the twisted mind of horror's first true weirdo. Paying homage to the prestige De Palma's pictures that elevated the genre, and the trashier lesser-known titles that flooded the early 90s, Suitable Flesh is a dreamy, steamy, soft-core vibe full of body-swapping & bonin' down.
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