Joe Lynch carries on Stuart Gordon’s work with a horror that is equally gross and erotic. Here’s our full Suitable Flesh review.
A recent study determined that Gen-Z wants less and less sex in their films. A co-author of the study emphasised that younger viewers want a more diverse set of relationships on screen, not just romantic and horny ones. But lately, there has been a bit of a moral panic when it comes to sex on screen. Social media has been filled with hot takes about the necessity of sex scenes. Do we need to see the hanky panky? Do we even want to?
Well, Joe Lynch’s Suitable Flesh feels like a major “Screw you!” to those who wish to eradicate sex on screen. Lynch’s film is unapologetically horny, erotic and sex-positive and all the better for it.
Suitable Flesh is based on HP Lovecraft’s 1937 story The Thing On The Doorstep and follows Heather Graham’s psychiatrist, Dr Elizabeth Derby. She meets with a young patient, Asa (Judah Lewis), who at first seems to be suffering from a severe form of personality disorder as he claims that something is after his body. Asa suddenly begins to have a seizure after a call from his father (Bruce Davison) and emerges from it a completely different person.
Elizabeth quickly develops an unhealthy obsession with Asa and begins to understand that perhaps what plagues him can’t be explained through medical jargon. What follows is a unique spin on an old-fashioned possession story.
Lynch’s film is dedicated to the work of Stuart Gordon and acts as a spiritual companion to Gordon’s delightfully nasty 1980s Lovecraft adaptations, Re-Animator and From Beyond. Suitable Flesh leans heavily into camp and veers on the silly, but when the horror comes, oh boy, does it deliver.
The film’s written by Gordon’s long-time collaborator Dennis Paoli, giving Suitable Flesh an authentic 80s vibe. There are plenty of split diopter shots for those who dig them, and Barbara Crampton, the scream queen from Gordon’s aforementioned films, stars as Elizabeth’s best friend and colleague, Dr Daniella Upton.
Suitable Flesh constantly switches between a body horror and an erotic thriller. As already mentioned, there’s sex. A lot of sex. What matters here though is how it’s executed. Horror films have always been filled with naughtiness, but it usually results in death. Just think of the poor camp counsellors at Camp Crystal Lake who went off to rub their genitals together and died as a result when Jason showed up with his machete.
Lynch, refreshingly, allows Elizabeth to experience pleasure. Her sexual activities feel crucial to the plot, and it’s always filmed from her perspective; her pleasure is what matters here. You don’t see that in many films these days.
It’s not completely perfect though. While Suitable Flesh is constantly intriguing, it takes a bit long to get to the meat of the story. It has a few moments of brilliant, bloody horror, but overall, it’s like there’s something holding the film back from truly committing to the campiness and splatteriness of the 80s. The finale is undeniably satisfying and everything comes together quite neatly, but we find out very little about why certain things happen or what caused them. Now, some people will be fine with that, but I was bothered. I yearned for more, mostly because I thought Lynch was doing something really special with the film.
The cast are all great – Heather Graham really shines in the lead, and young Judah Lewis is game for the many requirements of his role, but the horror and the comedy don’t always mix well. The one-liners became a little insufferable, and the film often jumps from spectacle to spectacle without anything meaningful in-between the sex or possession scenes. I do wish we could get more films like Suitable Flesh, though – films that aren’t afraid of being erotic and horny. Sometimes all we want is a bit of light-hearted, gory fun from our movies.
Suitable Flesh is in cinemas now.
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