(The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival ran June 7-18 and HtN has a ton of coverage coming like Melanie Addington’s Suitable Flesh movie review. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)
Suitable Flesh spins an old H.P. Lovecraft yarn into a new horny modern tale with a twist. A planned Shudder release, the film isn’t perfect but sure goes for it and creates a new scream queen out of Heather Graham (I don’t count her very small role in Scream 2). The absolute critical takeaway of the film is reimagining Lovecraft after his known problematic stance of hating pretty much everyone (the other in his horror was usually anyone of color, a different class, women, etc).
The film was revisited with Joe Lynch at the helm and author Dennis Paoli (Re-Animator) who rewrote the original story to turn the genre on its head with a female lead. Johnathon Schaech (That Thing You Do!) plays the eye candy hunk husband that cooks, stays home, and supports his wife (Graham) who is a psychiatrist that has a patient barge into her life and changes everything. She kills her patient and tells her friend-turned-doctor the full story hoping to save herself before it is too late.
Born originally from Stuart Gordon who died in 2020 but adapted numerous Lovecraft to screen, the film gives a few easter eggs to his past films. Starring Barbara Crampton (Chopping Mall, Re-Animator), Graham, and Judah Lewis (Babysitter) with a fun cameo from Bruce Davison, the actors had fun taking on the role of each other in form while inhabited by the monster numerous times throughout the film.
Born out of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, the tale is about the monster’s transference between people with a spell, but an often sexualized nature of obsession and lust. Are we the flesh around us or a soul that can withstand being someone else? With what would feel cringe-y if an older male seduced a young woman (the roles reverse in this film), somehow the interplay of father-son-doctor and what desire is or isn’t in the physical response makes for an enticing concept. Is sexual desire only the exterior? Can it be something more?
If our life looks perfect on the outside, how can it unravel from just an idea? Lovecraft theorized that in cosmic indifferentism, humans are playthings of otherworldy beings and nothing that happens to them matters in the universe. Our own story and our journey mean little and the lack of control over our lives is where the true horror lies. Female empowerment with our sexuality and living to human standards rather than through our desires fits perfectly within Lovecraft’s concepts. Whether we should continue to honor an author that held conservative beliefs and racist leanings. As fascism and the Great Depression rose towards the latter half of his life, he saw a change and switched to socialism.
While the story is mostly psychological horror, there are some satisfying squishy blood scenes including an audience favorite of the car camera as she backs into a character over and over. Some B-movie acting and a loose edit make this less than it could be but is a definite crowd-pleaser film that leans into its campiness with some great one-liners.
– Melanie Addington (@MelAddington)
2023 Tribeca Film Festival; Joe Lynch; Suitable Flesh movie review