GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
SUITABLE FLESH ***
Directed by Joe Lynch. Starring Heather Graham, Judah Lewis, Barbara Crampton.
Horror, US, 100 minutes.
Reviewed as part of the Pigeon Shrine FrightFest ‘23.
Genre films and highways go hand in hand, a partnership going back to the 1940’s with Edgar G. Ulmer’s fatalistic film noir DETOUR then hitting full speed Kicking off this year’s FrightFest was Joe Lynch’s tribute to the much-missed writer/director Stuart Gordon. He is best known for his H.P. Lovecraft adaptations RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and DAGON. SUITABLE FLESH was originally intended to be Gordon’s swansong, one more trip to the Lovecraft well to adapt his story The Thing on the Doorstep. An early example of body-swapping fiction, it tells the tale of an evil sorceress taking advantage of her mild-mannered husband in service of the dark gods who populated Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. It’s a story ripe for adapting from many angles, and it stings that we did not get to see how Gordon would have adapted it for the big screen. What we do get, however, is this fun tribute to him from the equally talented Joe Lynch, who brings his own brand of knowing humour and outrageousness to the table here.
Heather Graham plays Elizabeth Derby, a once renowned psychiatrist whom we meet in an insane asylum located in Miskatonic Hospital, the site where Dr. Herbert West conducted his experiments in RE-ANIMATOR. Elizabeth has committed a murder and recounts her wild tale of ending up in a padded cell after meeting Asa, a young man who bursts into her office ranting and raving about his father. Asa seems to have a fit, which brings about a complete change in his personality. Elizabeth soon becomes obsessed with Asa in a less than professional matter that soon threatens not only her career and marriage to her nice but boring husband but her own safety as she learns of Asa’s father’s occult dabbling with a book that will be all too familiar to fans of Lovecraft.
Those expecting a cover version-style film in the vein of Gordon may walk away disappointed. While it is a tribute to him, Lynch has made a far campier film than Gordon ever attempted. The nods to Gordon’s works are present and correct, including a meaty role for his regular collaborator, Barbara Crampton. There are also nods and riffs on the work of Brian De Palma, particularly DRESSED TO KILL. Equal parts cosmic horror and straight-to-video erotic thriller, this is a knowing exercise in excess that treads a fine line before tipping into an all-out spoof of those genres.
Whether it is Heather Graham’s arch performance or the numerous sex scenes scored by cheesy sax music, it is crystal clear that this film isn’t taking itself seriously. Although frequent Gordon collaborator Dennis Paoli subverts the original story characters by flipping their genders, an act repeated itself in the film several times. This action tackles Lovecraft’s problems with female characters, what few there were, and makes for an interesting commentary on the otherwise influential writer.
Otherwise, Lynch just wants to have fun here and provides that for the audience in a big way. He brings his own touches of wild gore to several scenes here, including an ingenious use of a car rear-view camera, and the film reaches a near hysterical fever pitch, introducing more outrageous plot points and taking the film to it take no prisoners conclusion. It is good fun and a nice tribute to a much-missed director.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans