Attention horror fans, attention horror fans! Barbara Crampton has returned to the world of Lovecraft horror in Suitable Flesh, a bonkers body swap movie directed by Joe Lynch. Oh, and this one also features a sex-crazed demon. While Lynch’s film doesn’t quite have the existential dread of say, Stuart Gordon’s various takes on Lovecraft, it’s still a heck of a lot of fun. Suitable Flesh is a rollercoaster ride of thrills with a stellar cast.
Other than Crampton, who plays a major role as Dr. Daniella Upton, the film stars Heather Graham in quite a knockout performance as Dr. Elizabeth Derby, a shrink who encounters a strange patient named Asa Waite (Judah Lewis). When the film opens, Dr. Upton visits Dr. Derby in the psych ward, and from there, we learn how the otherworldly, cosmic events unfolded.
Asa makes an appointment with Dr. Derby and claims that someone or something is out to possess his body. In their first session, he acts especially weird. It’s a mind-bending bit of body horror with intense sexual overtones. Suitable Flesh only gets stranger and wilder from there. It turns out that Asa is correct. A demon, hauled up in the body of the aging Ephraim Waite (Bruce Davison) is out to overtake Asa, so it can reside in a much healthier, younger body. The demon is lustful, foul-mouthed, and enjoys a few puffs of marijuana. This adds to the overall campiness.
From there, the demon jumps from body to body, including Dr. Upton and Dr. Derby. It’s a really cool premise that Lynch generally executes well, and in turn, it draws out great performances from Crampton and Graham once the demon goes for a ride in their characters’ bodies. Crampton especially seemed to have a heck of a lot of fun in the role, while Graham is all kinds of terrifying and sinister when possessed. It’s a different type of performance than what we’re used to seeing from her, and I’m all for it. I hope she makes more genre movies after this.
There are some nice nods to Lovecraft sprinkled throughout Suitable Flesh, too, including Cthulhu-like drawings in an ancient book that belongs to Ephraim Waite, a character from Lovecraft’s short story The Thing on the Doorstep. There’s also the fact that most people who encounter the demon and survive go crazy. All of these aspects remain faithful to the spirit of the famed horror author’s work, and adding Crampton into the mix harkens back to Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptations like Reanimator, Castle Freak, and From Beyond, which may serve as the biggest inspiration for Suitable Flesh.
That said, Suitable Flesh isn’t without its flaws. There are times when, tonally, it’s all over the place. It has some B movie laughs, which Gordon’s work certainly had, but sometimes, the comedy distracts from the sense of terror that Lovecraft’s work typically evokes. In this case, the film doesn’t quite get the balance right. There are other scenes that very much feel like a cheesy late-night erotic thriller, down to the music and lightening. Whether or not the sex scenes were meant to be hilarious, they come across as such. Again, there are too many tonal shifts in this feature.
Some flaws aside, Suitable Flesh is a gnarly romp and one of the most entertaining horror films of 2023. Heather Graham gives one of her best performances in years, and Crampton is always a delight. After all, she’s the queen of Lovecraft horror movies.
Suitable Flesh is currently available on VOD. It will stream on Shudder at a later date.