Review by Sean Boelman
Filmmaker Joe Lynch is well-known in the cinephile community for directing some gnarly and badass films, like the cult favorite horror-comedy Mayhem. His newest movie, Suitable Flesh takes its high-concept premise and knocks it out of the park, creating a genre film that ranks among the most fun you will see this year.
Adapted by Dennis Paoli (Re-Animator) from a story by H. P. Lovecraft, the movie follows a psychologist who becomes obsessed with a patient of hers with multiple personality disorder — soon discovering that there may be more sinister forces lurking. The premise definitely shares more in common tonally with Paoli’s other Lovecraft adaptation than Cthulhu-esque cosmic horror, but it’s still freaky and fun in all the right ways.
It’s honestly surprising just how sexual this film is, but it works quite well. Ultimately, it ends up feeling like an erotic thriller with a supernatural horror twist, and it’s a perfectly fun throwback to the campy B-movies of the ‘80s. Although the soundtrack is a bit on-the-nose when it comes to the “bow chicka wow wow” vibes, it fits.
There probably aren’t many horror movies that will come out this year that will strike the balance of being campy while still taking itself entirely seriously as well as this one does. There are a bunch of tonal shifts in the film, but Lynch manages to pull them all off, creating a movie that’s often funny, sometimes scary, and always fun.
The cast here is all giving extremely over-the-top performances, but it’s clear that they’re having an absolute blast. Heather Graham definitely has to show the most range because of the nature of the character, and she pulls it off in a way that feels fun to watch. Barbara Crampton also has an enjoyable turn, although her role is much smaller.
That said, the film does leave something to be desired with its character development. Although these characters were always going to be difficult — as the lines between hero and villain are aggressively blurred — the purpose didn’t seem to be for viewers to root against all of them, yet the movie ends up feeling incredibly nihilistic.
The cinematography, production design, and special effects are all over-the-top and highly stylized, but considering the genre of films this is a throwback to, this tone works perfectly. The effects in the movie, particularly during the third act, are also impressive — including one that is so gory it becomes nauseating.
Suitable Flesh might not be particularly unsettling, but it is extraordinarily fun as a throwback to a genre of horror that we haven’t seen a lot of in recent years. Horror cinephiles will absolutely eat this up in all of its retro, campy glory.
Suitable Flesh screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.