#19 The Fly
(1986, David Cronenberg)
“I’m working on something that will change the world, and human life as we know it”
The Fly was originally a 1950s b-movie, a wacky comedy about a man getting his head stuck to a fly and all the shenanigans that go on from that. OK, it was actually a horror movie starring Vincent Price, but still. However, this review isn’t about that. Instead, we’re talking about David Cronenberg’s pseudo-remake of the same name. It isn’t a remake in the true sense of the word, as all Cronenberg did was take the basic premise and then wrote his own script around it, adding in a few of his trademark themes for good measure.
Jeff Goldblum plays Seth Brundle, a scientist who invites a reporter (Geena Davis) to his lab to see an exciting new project that he has unfolding – the production of a teleporter. She agrees to follow the events, and the two begin a relationship. However, things take a much darker turn when Brundle sends himself through the teleporter and inadvertently crosses his DNA with that of a fly, producing a terrifying hybrid.
Where this film succeeds is that the horror of the transformation is discovered gradually over the course of the movie, rather than presenting us with some cheesy monster. Brundle emerges from the gene splicing apparently unharmed, and in fact initially shows dramatic improvement in his muscle structure, giving him great strength and stamina. But over time, things get creepier. As the two forms converge, Brundle begins to take on more and more insect-like attributes, terrifying his new girlfriend and essentially morphing into what could only be described as an abomination.
The slow build-up of the true horror of this transformation is effective, with each change instilling more and more horror. The tone of the movie consistently shifts too, starting out very light-hearted and fun before gradually becoming more serious as events progress. We are led to like both Brundle and Veronica, which makes the resulting events even more harrowing.
The performances of Goldblum and Davis are what truly help this. They inject real humanity into their characters. Veronica could have easily become a shrieking damsel in distress, but Davis plays her very intelligently, and as someone that can be easily identified with. In addition, Goldblum is excellent at conveying the tortured soul within Brundle, particularly as the transformation takes hold. What’s more, the chemistry between the two is phenomenal, and just adds to the effect.
And, naturally, the effects look impressive, if a little creaky by today’s standards. The makeup is gruesome and unsettling for the most part, although there is the odd slip-up here and there. In addition, the ultimate “Brundlefly” at the end does look a little ropey, but fortunately, Cronenberg chooses to keep this one to a minimum right at the end.
Overall, The Fly is a powerful movie, one that maintains strong characters to make the horror all the more effective. It could have been so easy to turn this concept into a shocking gore-fest, and yet it never strays down that path, for which it deserves to be commended.
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davies & John Getz
Written by George Langelaan (short story), Charles Edward Pogue & David Cronenberg
Produced by Stuart Cornfield
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Mark Irwin
Edited by Ronald Sanders, Carol Littleton & Jim Miller
Favourite Scene: The perverse comedy of Brundle’s behaviour following the gene splicing. We know something’s gone horribly wrong, but it’s played for laughs
Scene That Bugged Me: Dear Mr Cronenberg, I never wanted to see a human scale version of how a fly eats, thanks. Love and kisses, Sven
Watch it if: You want to see what a Brundlefly looks like, you strange person
Avoid it if: You’re afraid, very afraid.
Originally posted on Blogspot Monday 21st November 2011