Suitable Flesh Director & Cast Talk Horror Inspirations, Stuart Gordon’s Legacy & More
18 mins read

Suitable Flesh Director & Cast Talk Horror Inspirations, Stuart Gordon’s Legacy & More

Summary

  • Suitable Flesh is a haunting and visceral horror movie based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep,” exploring body-swapping through an occult ritual.
  • The film features an ensemble cast including Heather Graham and Judah Lewis and pays homage to Lovecraft’s previous adaptations and the body horror genre.
  • Director Joe Lynch and the cast talk about the influence of the late director Stuart Gordon, the practical effects used in the film, and the unique experience of playing multiple characters.
  • Not all body-swapping stories are full of fun mischief, as seen in Suitable Flesh. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Thing on the Doorstep”, the movie follows a psychiatrist as she learns one of her patient’s schizophrenic symptoms are actually due to someone using an occult ritual to swap bodies with him, and she finds herself the next target of the one behind it.

    Heather Graham and Judah Lewis lead the ensemble cast of Suitable Flesh alongside Barbara Crampton, Johnathon Schaech, Bruce Davison, and Giovannie Cruz. Pulling inspiration from both its source material, prior Lovecraft adaptations, and the body horror genre, the movie is a haunting and visceral throwback.

    Related: 10 Best Movies Inspired By H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos

    Following its Tribeca Film Festival world premiere, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with director Joe Lynch and stars Heather Graham, Judah Lewis, Johnathon Schaech, and Barbara Crampton (also attached as a producer on the project) to discuss Suitable Flesh, how late director Stuart Gordon was a major influence on the movie, and more.

    Suitable Flesh Director & Cast Talk Stuart Gordon’s Legacy & Practical Effects

    Suitable Flesh poster edited

    Screen Rant: Suitable Flesh is another chilling Lovecraft adaptation. Joe, this is not your first rodeo in the horror genre, but you’ve tackled so many different angles on it, whether it’s Mayhem or Creepshow. What was it like going into this project in comparison to your prior works?

    Joe Lynch: Well, honestly, it’s been a little while since I had done straight horror. Everything has been either — like with Wrong Turn 2 or even with Mayhem, they’ve been kind of hybrids. The last film that I had done was strictly action, and I wanted to get back into the genre that I love, that I loved as a kid, I love to work with. As all of us know, the horror community is such a tight-knit one, we all love to collaborate with each other, so when you get the email and the call from the queen of horror herself, Barbara Crampton, you take that call, you reply on that email.

    It’s been a joy, especially in this world, because I had never done anything quite like this. I think all my heroes are ones that always push themselves, and I wanted to push myself in a realm that I had never done anything with this sort of gravitas and atmosphere, but also at the same time, pay homage and make this a bit of a love letter to those cinematic provocateurs that I grew up with, especially Stuart Gordon. Knowing that this had ties to Stuart’s work, it was a dream come true.

    Barbara, you and I talked a couple of times for Jakob’s Wife and Sacrifice, and this continues your work as a producer and reunites you with Brian Yuzna and Dennis Paoli. What was it like getting to wear multiple hats on this and help bring it to life?

    Barbara Crampton: Well, I’ve been producing for a few years now, and this particular script is one that is really close to my heart, because it is Lovecraft. It’s funny, because after I made Jakob’s Wife — and it took me so long to get that made, it was like four years — I said to myself, “If I never make another movie again, as an actor, producer, whatever, I’m fine, because I got to make Jakob’s Wife, I don’t care anymore. I’m done.” Then when that was over, and I got this script, I said, “Oh my god, I have to make this movie. This is the one I have to make now.”

    I think producing movies is like a drug, once you do one, you kind of have to keep going. And I have a long legacy with Lovecraft, and this was a project that Stuart wanted to do many years ago and wasn’t able to get off the ground with Dennis. After he passed, it meant a lot to me, and I felt like I had to make this movie for just the love that I have of Stuart. He basically gave me my career, and also because I love the story, and I love Lovecraft’s writings, it was just really important to me to make this movie.

    I’m glad you were allotted that opportunity. Heather, outside of maybe The Stand, this is also your first straight horror movie in quite a while. What was it like getting to dive back into that genre, and what about this project really sparked your interest?

    Heather Graham: I love the aspect of a psychological thriller mixed with horror. Joe asked me to watch Basic Instinct and Body Heat and Re-Animator, just that kind of erotic thriller-horror combination was really cool. I think it’s a very smart script, too, and I just liked that my character was a therapist, and just this idea of our minds, and how complicated people are, and switching different personas, and just getting to play different roles is very exciting as an actor.

    Judah Lewis in Suitable Flesh

    You and Judah share quite the weight of having to play these multiple personalities throughout the film. What is that like for each of you getting into those different mindsets, but then also having to develop a really intriguing rapport with one another as the film goes on?

    Judah Lewis: A dream would be my answer. I don’t know any other opportunity I’ve ever had where it’s like, “Here’s the script, and you’re playing multiple characters in it.” I think, as an actor, there’s something so tantalizing about that. The interesting piece with the approach on this was having to develop each one separately, and not have them meld into each other, but really see them as different people and be able to approach them as such. Then, I think me and Heather had an excellent rapport, she’s just the sweetest, loveliest human being, and I did feel bad on many occasions saying the things that I had to say to her, but I’ll blame somebody else for that. [Laughs]

    Heather Graham: The writer! [Laughs]

    Judah Lewis: Yeah.

    Heather Graham: I mean, I was a jerk to you, too.

    Judah Lewis: Okay, yeah, it was an equal — we would giggle about it in between scenes, so that’s the beauty of it.

    Heather Graham: Well, like Judah said, it’s a dream to, as an actor, get to do multiple characters in the same movie. It’s such an incredible opportunity, and obviously, working with such other talented people was so fun. I think we all had a great time, and Joe is such a cinephile, so you feel like you’re in the hands of someone who really knows movies.

    Joe Lynch: Or who can rent you one at a video store! [Chuckles]

    Heather Graham: It’s an actor’s dream to get to play three different characters in the same movie. It’s amazing.

    Johnathon, you’ve worked with Joe before on Creepshow and have plenty of ties to the horror genre, as well. What about the script, and your character in particular, really sparked that interest?

    Johnathon Schaech: Well, first, the pitch that Joe gave me was sensational. You’re taking an HP Lovecraft [story], and switching roles, and pushing the borders of sexuality, it was just the greatest pitch ever. I was like, “I’m on board already.” Then, I got to read the script, and I love Lovecraft, I read a lot of his material, worked on it, so it was a great opportunity. Then, they throw in Heather Graham in there, I’ve been wanting to work with her, since it all started, so finally get to.

    Heather Graham: We’ve been wanting to work together for a while.

    I find it really interesting how you don’t necessarily get into the body-swapping, but you do have a bit of your own personality change in the latter half of the film, what was it like exploring multiple character types, while still being one person?

    Johnathon Schaech: [It’s like being] taken out of the comfort zone of what you’re used to, you know? Exploring different possibilities of self, and identity, and sexuality. It was just fantastic, and a lot of fun playing something that I never got to play before. More of the submissive part of the equation.

    Heather Graham and Johnathon Schaech in Suitable Flesh

    Joe, I love how practical this movie is when it comes to a lot of its effects. I’m trying to be somewhat tame on spoilers, but it gets pretty brutal. How did you go about deciding how gory you wanted to be versus how subtle?

    Joe Lynch: That was one of the interesting balances that we had to do, because we wanted to make this film stand on its own. But at the same time, because it’s Lovecraft and because it definitely not just pays homage to Stuart’s work like Re-Animator and From Beyond, but it’s in that world. People tend to forget that Lovecraft was one of the original world builders when it came to — like, everyone’s talking about, “Oh, the MCU’s got all these different connections.”

    Stephen King has done it for years with Castle Rock, but Lovecraft had been doing it with Miskatonic and the Necronomicon and Cthulhu for years. We wanted to infuse that sensibility into this film, not just in the story and the characters, but also, I mean, people know Re-Animator, and From Beyond, and Dagon and Castle Freak. They know that Stuart knew when to push and when to pull back, and that was something that was in there from the get-go with the script that Dennis had done, because he had worked with Stuart.

    When I was a kid growing up and reading the pages of Fangoria, those images were so striking that we wanted to make sure that we recreated that kind of feel that you would get when you get to page 32, and you’re looking at a color shot of Herbert West surrounded by zombies in a in a morgue. We wanted to have that same feel, and not just be something that would be digital based or, “We’ll fix it in post”, or, “We’ll comp it in post.” A lot of this film, we wanted to make sure that it was there on the day, because for many parts — and we don’t want to give too much away — watching the other actors, and even watching some of the crew, look at some of the stuff that was standing right in front of them was such a joy.

    If we’re getting that kind of reaction on the day, on set, we knew that we were doing something right, because it was going to parlay into what was going to end up on screen, as well. So, having that practical and that over to the top feel was part and parcel with what we were trying to homage, but also still stand on its own and make sure that it hurt where it counted.

    The imagery of Stuart’s work still sticks in my mind to this day, even when I rewatch Re-Animator or From Beyond. Heather and Judah, one of the interesting elements of this body-swapping story is how it happens with the convulsions, and the bones cracking, and all of that. How did you go about working with Joe to really figure out what level of physicality that required for those moments?

    Joe Lynch: Go ahead, guys! [Laughs]

    Heather Graham: Did you show us, what was it, some werewolf movie?

    Judah Lewis: Teen Wolf!

    Heather Graham: Teen Wolf, it was Teen Wolf.

    Joe Lynch: No, it wasn’t Teen Wolf, god—-it, it was American Werewolf in London!

    Heather Graham: It’s American Werewolf in London, okay, we were watching that, and then we really engaged [in the action]. That was exhausting what we did.

    Barbara Crampton: Oh my god, yeah.

    Joe Lynch: We did it multiple times. I want to just jump in to say as a testament to both Judah, and Barbara at one point, and Heather, of course. We would do master shots, where we’re doing long, 11-page scenes and there were times where they were changing in the same shot. Yeah, we watched American Werewolf in London purely to show that this is supposed to hurt, it’s not supposed to be like Vice Versa or Like Father Like Son, those body swap movies, or Freaky Friday, where they just go, [makes warbling noises and swapping motions].

    No, if we’re gonna do something that’s body horror-based, it has to hurt. I’ll never forget being in my Airbnb and going, “Okay guys, here we go. Hold on.” And then I did it and just looking up and looking at all of them going, “What have we signed up for? Oh my God.” But then every day, they would come so committed and watching them — I’m not a big veins fan, I can’t stand it, so anytime Johnathon Schaech would take his shirt off, it’d be like, “Oh, God he has too many veins.”

    But watching the veins in both Heather’s and Judah’s necks when they would change, it was all the Cronenbergian body horror that we needed to capture on camera without even a makeup effects artist, because they were so committed to make it feel like this hurt. This is not a joyous thing, we call it “the wackening.” It was this like relationship between the camera operator doing all this funky s–t, but also the actors. If you did it, and the actor’s just standing there going like, “When’s lunch?”, then we were screwed. But they brought it every single day.

    Heather Graham and Barbara Crampton in Suitable Flesh

    Barbara and Johnathon, what is it like watching your fellow actor have to go through that?

    Johnathon Schaech: For me, it was amazing to watch Heather transform. [Chuckles] It was so much fun, I had so much fun, because I didn’t know what she was gonna bring next, and I could see that she was exploring different things, and I just had to be a participant, reflecting the image of what she was going to bring next.

    Barbara Crampton: Yeah, I think as good as Heather and Judah are in their, I want to say, “normal parts” — Heather being the psychiatrist and Judah being the college student — as real and believable and warm and lovely as they both are, when they both turn into the entity, it was an incredible transformation for both of them. It was incredible to watch, and to witness, both of them are such dynamic performers. We were laughing with joy, just tickled to death that they went as far as they did. And the transformation I watched through many days of filming, and I think it’s okay to say I had to do it once — what do you think Joe?

    Joe Lynch: Yeah, no, we’re not giving too much away here, but it’s fine.

    Barbara Crampton: When I was like watching them doing the wackening, the convulsing, changing the bodies, I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting, that’s cool.” And then when I had to do it, I nearly threw up. I actually had a very bad reaction on set, it was very hot, and it was the last day of filming. But, I couldn’t believe they went through it multiple times, because I went through it once and I was like, “I don’t know if I could do this again.” It was intense, it was an intense feeling, so kudos to them for doing it so many times.

    About Suitable Flesh

    Heather Graham in Suitable Flesh

    Psychiatrist Elizabeth Derby becomes obsessed with helping a young patient suffering extreme personality disorder. But it leads her into dark occult danger as she tries to escape a horrific fate.

    Suitable Flesh hits select theaters on October 27 and will be available on Digital the same day.

    Source: Screen Rant Plus

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