Throwback Review #4: The Fly (1986)

Posted: October 14, 2014 in Horror Blog
Tags: , , , , , , ,

WARNING, this post will contain some fairly graphic imagery.

 

 

Another one! I’m on a roll!

Another film I haven’t seen in awhile, but I absolutely love. The Fly is one of David Cronenberg’s greatest films as far as I am concerned. It is imaginative, disturbing, and comeplling. Everything about it, from start to finish, reels you in and doesn’t relent. Like Carpenter’s The Thing, it is the epitome of what a horror film re-imagining/remake should be.

 

The story follows the socially awkward Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) as he attempts to woo reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis.) He does so by bringing her to his place promising to show her “something that will change the very world as we know it.” She thinks he is just playing her but come to find out, he wasn’t lying. At his humble abode he has been working on a project for the past six years. A project that will indeed change everything. A real teleportation device. Veronica immediately starts recording Brundle’s work as he goes from testing inanimate objects to baboons. But initially there are some bad results with the teleporter not being able to reassemble skin.  But after some readjustments it works and is able to fully transport living organisms correctly. Seth hastily decides to try it out for himself, but isn’t aware that he isn’t the only living thing in the telepod when he attempts to go through. A small typical house fly is trapped inside with him when he goes through, but when the transport is complete only Seth walks out. So what happened to the fly? Well, as the weeks go by we find out. Seth has increased energy and strength as well as a spike in anger. His body slowly begins transforming into a hideous beast until we aren’t sure if he is more man than he is insect.

 

First off, the makeup alone is reason enough to love this movie. It walked away with the Oscar in ’87 for makeup and it is easy to see why. The practical effects in this movie are breathtaking and probably some of the best since The Thing. The transformation of Brundle into Brundlefly gets as much under the viewers skin as it does Seth’s. Many of these transformation techniques have been echoed again and again in films today, most notably District 9. There are scenes in District 9 that are almost shot for shot taken from The Fly. Like the peeling of the fingernails, and the removal of the teeth. The transformation starts off slowly, but speeds up to an alarming rate halfway through the film. Each new reveal of Seth has our stomach in knots, and out morbid curiosity piqued.

There are also some really excellent moments of practical effects genius such as these, littered throughout the entire film:

And above all, the final stage of metamorphosis that Brundle goes through in the climax.

 

The film does a great job of using really graphic depictions of the transformation, while somehow staying contained. Cronenberg shows just the right amount, at just the right moments to keep it sickening and disturbing but not overly gratuitous. Once again, there is the reason that this film won best makeup effects. These images are testament to how useful practical effects can be. and for the most part they haven’t really aged; they still hold up while watching the film today.  Give me this practical transformation than a CGI double any day.

 

Jeff Goldblum does an outstanding job as Seth Brundle. The exec heads of Fox at the time were apparently really against Goldblum for the role, and I think his performance made them eat their words. He starts off as that a-typical socially awkward guy, and he plays it so sincerely. But over the course of the film he turns into a monster both inside and out. The transformation essentially has the same effects on him as heroin does to a drug addict, and Goldblum captures that perfectly. The obsession, and compulsion- it’s all there. His performance through the makeup though is where he really shines. He, while wearing these grotesque appliances, gives us a character with humanity and is someone that we are saddened to see slip into this insanity and become a monster.

Geena Davis does a great job too as playing Veronica, who is essentially the audience connection. She feels the same pain and horror that the audience does- if not even more so. Halfway through the film she finds out she’s pregnant with Seth’s baby (most likely post fly-spliced Seth.) So not only is she dealing with the gradual loss of her lover, but she has this thing inside her that she fears is not fully human. It too could end up being a monster- and it’s driving her insane. On top of that she’s dealing with he mildly stalkerish ex, who also happens to be her boss. Her life isn’t that great. And never in the film does she really come off as the a-typical “woe is me” damsel in distress. She tries to stay strong. She wants to be there to help Seth, and make it through this. But it weighs her down, and breaks her down the whole film.  Davis really does a great job in making us connect and sympathize with the character the whole film.  And then… she also does a great job of making us feel horrified…

 

 

Cronenberg is arguably one of the modern masters of horror. With films like The Fly, The Brood, and Scanners and others it is easy to see why. But The Fly takes the cake for me. It crawls under your skin the entire film through masterful storytelling. While it does seem a tad rushed in spots, it makes up for it with a brilliant combination of characterization and effects that still hold up to this day. It’s a modern classic, that will haunt your thoughts for days after watching with the imagery. Yes… be afraid. Be very afraid.

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