The Scariest Things Podcast: An interview with legendary screenwriter Dennis Paoli

ATMOSfx! Woo!

The Screenplay Works of Dennis Paoli: Suitable Flesh, Re-Animator, Dagon, and From Beyond

Two movements in the 1980s helped elevate the works of H.P. Lovecraft to an unsuspecting public. The first was the Chaosium role-playing game, The Call of Cthulhu. It was a game that pitted daring investigators against unspeakable horrors of the Lovecraftian Mythos. The second was the collaborative movie efforts of director Stuart Gordon, writer Dennis Paoli, producer Brian Yuzna, and actors Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton. Together, they created a B-Movie legacy of well-made and highly entertaining sleazy cosmic horror.

Outrageously gory and unabashedly erotic, these films said the quiet things suggested in the cryptic writings of Lovecraft out loud. These movies were limited to video release due to the explicit content that the Cineplex would not touch. And yet, millions of fans would forever associate these films with the best kind of forbidden fruit. Gloriously gory and sleazy fun fruit! Movies beloved by horror fans such as Re-Animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak, and Dagon have become canonical cosmic horror. Though Stuart Gordon sadly passed away in the great pandemic of 2020, his legacy lives on.

Suitable Flesh is the immediate inheritor of that legacy. A project that Gordon and Paoli had been shopping around Hollywood for the better part of a decade was pegged to be the next film to be translated from Lovecraft’s story “The Thing at the Doorstep” to motion pictures. One producer after another would pick up the script and rave about it, but in the end, determine that there was too much sex. After Gordon passed away, Dennis Paoli contacted Barbara Crampton, who had become a powerhouse producer as well as a rejuvenated actress. Crampton loved the script so much that she offered to produce it, but only if she would star in it.

I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Dennis, backstage at the Hollywood Theater when he showed up to present this film at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival here in Portland, Oregon. Not surprisingly, as a master storyteller, he was a hugely entertaining guest for our Podcast. He shares his thoughts about his collaborations with Gordon and Crampton, the recently successful conclusion of the Writer’s Guild of America strike, how he interpreted the dense verse of Lovecraft for more modern ears, and of course, the production of Suitable Flesh.

Please enjoy my interview with screenwriting legend, Dennis Paoli.

Eric Li backstage with Dennis Paoli at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival

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