SUITABLE FLESH movie poster | ©2023 RLJE Films/Shudder

SUITABLE FLESH movie poster | ©2023 RLJE Films/Shudder

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Heather Graham, Judah Lewis, Bruce Davison, Johnathon Schaech, Barbara Crampton, Hunter Womack
Writer: Dennis Paoli, based on the story “The Thing on the Doorstep” by H.P. Lovecraft
Director: Joe Lynch
Distributor: RLJE Films/Shudder
Release Date: October 27, 2023

SUITABLE FLESH is body-swap horror based on the story “The Thing on the Doorstep” by H.P. Lovecraft. If the film doesn’t feel especially Lovecraftian, it’s worth it to check out the original, at least after viewing. This shows us how nimbly screenwriter Dennis Paoli (a stalwart collaborator of the late Lovecraftian filmmaker Stuart Gordon) has retained the tale’s spine and many of its plot points, while giving it a fresh spin.

Director Joe Lynch has a sense of humor, but he doesn’t go for Gordon’s full-on wacky. Sexuality in SUITABLE FLESH is not played for laughs, but is instead central to the plot

There are two timelines. In one, psychiatrist Danielle Upton (Barbara Crampton) visits her erstwhile friend and colleague Dr. Elizabeth Derby (Heather Graham). Elizabeth is currently confined to a padded cell in the psychiatric wing of the hospital where Danielle works.

Elizabeth doesn’t deny committing an extremely grisly killing. The corpse is even now being opened up in the hospital morgue. But Elizabeth insists that not only is the man she killed not the one identified by the police, but that it wasn’t a person at all.

The other timeline is Elizabeth’s experiences leading up to the killing. A distraught young man, Asa (Judah Lewis), shows up at Elizabeth’s private practice office, begging for help. He has read Elizabeth’s book on out-of-body experiences and thinks she may believe him when he says that his father (Bruce Davison) has body-swapped with him. Elizabeth just thinks Asa is schizophrenic, but she finds him strangely compelling.

Most of the actors get to play several different personalities in SUITABLE FLESH. Graham and Lewis are particularly good at replicating each other’s delivery and traits for a shared character, while also establishing their individual characters’ original personas. Crampton captures the professional demeanor of a mental health professional who believes in both sympathy and boundaries.

Lynch and Paoli keep us intrigued by where all of this is going to go, with surprising little feints and jabs. We have a pretty good idea of where this is all going, but we remain curious right through the finale as to how it’s going to get there.

Although the end titles of SUITABLE FLESH announce that it was “filmed in Cthulhuscope,” this seems more a state of mind than a visual style. Lynch and the VFX artists have devised an appropriately trippy technique to convey the disorientation of a body swap.

However, the filmmakers keep the imagery we associate with Lovecraft limited to some suitably horrific corpses. Actual representations of Cthulhu and other creatures of the mythos are limited to some drawings in a book. Given the overall tone, this makes sense.

SUITABLE FLESH gives us fun and suspense on a budget, as well as allowing the cast to show diverse chops. Also, it’s easy to like a Lovecraft-based movie that ends with a tribute to Stuart Gordon.

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