Suitable Flesh Film
Suitable Flesh film offers above-average gory horror entertainment in a narrow genre, however it lacks the depth or originality to really stand out. Having Barbara Crampton in the ensemble and setting the action in a hospital with the name “Miskatonic” are both nods to this tradition.
The film takes place in Lovecraftian territory. Old-school. In other words, it has nothing to do with the TV show but rather with the H.P. Lovecraft films from the 1980s, directed by Stuart Gordon and featuring Crampton. (Remember the movie “Re-Animator,” when her character was raped by a resurrected corpse who was literally holding his own headless corpse in his hands?) A re-telling of The Thing on the Doorstep with a gender swap, ‘Suitable Flesh’ features Crampton as the perplexed psychiatrist Daniella Upton’s help heading over her companion and a coworker Elizabeth Derby’s story of woe once more while Derby is locked away in a padding room at one of Miskatonic’s mental health facilities.
What she’s done looks like a terrible crime, but Elizabeth claims that she was forced to act in this way. Her account starts with the tired “I had it all” sentimentality. Elizabeth describes her thriving practise and happy marriage, which are disrupted by the arrival of horny young ‘un As a (Judah Lewis), whose brashness shifts with danger and whose plight creeps into Elizabeth’s mind while unwanted fantasies of him surpassing her appear during her makeout sessions.
Elizabeth travels to Asa’s birthplace, where she meets his physically frail but exceedingly caustic dad, Ephraim (Bruce Davison), whose is obsessed with a book of ancient wisdom replete with the type of horrific drawings you see in films with ‘Necronomicon’ in the title. Using this book as a reference, someone (Asa? Ephraim? A villain who predates them both is transferring their spirits between bodies. Elizabeth will be the next one to fall.
The antics that follow are not light regarding psychological wickedness or brutality. Heather Graham enjoys taking on the roles of all of her guises. Graham’s gyrations virtually ooze glee at the prospect of experiencing his or her feminine body when Elizabeth is possessed by the obviously cis-het-male ghost, who can accomplish the deed via a mobile phone line, allegedly. One version of Asa says to Elizabeth, “Did anyone ever ask me to go crap yourself?” before laughing at the ability to kind of do that via soul teleportation. Thus, the picture expands upon the body-swapping antics of lighter comedies like “Freaky Friday,” and also builds upon the horndog business shown in Gordon/Crampton’s “From Beyond.”
The atmosphere is not just reminiscent of Lovecraft and Gordon, but also of Charles Band. Lighting that emphasises the set-bound aspect of most of the picture (for example, the turquoise colour of a window in Elizabeth’s office) is only one example of how writer/director Joe Lynch’s B-movie budget constraints show through. Lynch is a creative enough director that this works in his favour. And if you’re confused about who’s in whose body at the end, that’s on purpose, as is the film’s reluctance to commit to one interpretation of the truth of its narrative. Just roll with it; the frightful froth in your mind is worth it on its own.