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Suitable Flesh

A psychiatrist becomes obsessed with one of her young clients with a background in the supernatural.

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The first half of 2023 proved to be quite a feat for horror films. From hit franchise reprisals like Scream and Evil Dead to brand-new stories like M3GAN and Knock at the Cabin, this year has seen some spine-chilling stories of earthly and unearthly beings, so far, and there’s more to come. And now Suitable Flesh joins the long list of most-anticipated horror films coming up later in the year. Adapted from H.P. Lovecraft's short story The Thing On The Doorstep, Suitable Flesh is directed by Joe Lynch and written by Dennis Paoli, and is all set to unleash ultimate horror on the big screen. The story follows a psychiatrist, who becomes obsessed with one of her patients, which eventually links to an ancient curse. Do you remember good, ol'-fashioned American sleaze? Joe Lynch does. Not just that, but Lynch remembers that one of the absolute masters of sweaty innuendo and lascivious excess was also a master of horror: Stuart Gordon. While he may be best remembered for the gore that oozed out of every frame of his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "Herbert West–Reanimator," there was an equal amount of subversive sexuality at play. Lynch doesn't shy away from the feverish raunchiness that lurked just under the surface – or beneath revealing leather lingerie. That's only fitting, since he is literally picking up where Gordon left off: by bringing one of his unproduced projects, scripted by Gordon's longtime collaborator Dennis Paoli, to the screen. Suitable Flesh is a loose but still loyal adaptation of another Lovecraft story, 1933's "The Thing at the Doorstep." There have been multiple adaptations before, most emphasizing the gothic aspects of the tale of body-swapping horror, but none so unrelentingly horny, starting with the casting of two actors with pivotal roles in the maturation of film audiences of certain ages: Boogie Nights' Rollergirl herself, Heather Graham, and the wearer of those infamous leather undergarments in Gordon's From Beyond, Barbara Crampton. But sex is the last thing on anyone's mind when they're first introduced, as clinical psychiatrist Dr. Daniella Upton (Crampton) is off to meet her newest and most dangerous patient: her old friend and colleague Dr. Elizabeth Derby (Graham), locked up for not just a hideous murder but extensive abuse of a corpse. In a Gordon-esque flashback, she explains exactly what happened and how it involves her own patient, Asa Waite (Lewis), and his conviction that his decrepit and degenerate daddy, Ephraim (Davison), is trying to steal his body. That Stuart Gordon saucy twist comes in with the idea of using someone's flesh for your own pleasures, and while Elizabeth finds her heart melting for poor Asa, her compassion turns to passion whenever he seems to undergo a personality change and … well, let's just say the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Psychologists might not approve of their sessions on (and under and up against) the couch. For most of its run, the greatest volume of body fluid in Suitable Flesh is definitely sweat, as Elizabeth violates her Hippocratic oath on her scratchy office carpet with Asa, then goes home to her perpetually shirtless husband, Edward (Schaech, having a blast as a silver-fox himbo). Crampton, a Gordon regular, leaps back into the lascivious fray with wild abandon, but it's Graham who really gets to scratch the story's freaky itch. And that's complicated by the body-swap plot: After all, this is a story where just about everybody ends up inside of everyone else (pun most definitely intended). This means an incredible interplay between Graham and Lewis, which has to be by turns tender, terrifying, and randy. And it's a particular kind of sexy that Lynch is going for, the salacious and sultry sensuality of the Eighties, complete with constant sax solos. Honestly, this may be the only horror film that invokes Red Shoe Diaries and Cthulhu equally. Would Gordon approve? One would like to think yes, and not just because of the suitably grisly and titillating mixture of sex and violence, but because Lynch made a horror-sex-comedy for adults, one in which sexuality – especially the sexuality of women in their 50s and 60s – isn't something of which to be afraid. Now that's hot.


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