The Fly (1986)
The Fly (1986)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: August 15th, 1986 MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Cronenberg Actors: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, Les Carlson, George Chuvalo

 


 

“I’m

working on something that will change the world… and human life as we know it.” If not all of humanity, the mad scientist of director David Cronenberg’s visionary horror film will change at least his own life… drastically. In typical Cronenberg style, this re-imagining of the original 1958 B-movie classic is overloaded with spectacularly nauseating special effects, a fast-paced script, and characters who actually wrench sympathy and emotion from surely stunned audiences. Uncommon for the genre, “The Fly” is a deeper, symbolic, and thought-provoking lesson in experimentation gone awry, the disastrous results of advancing technology, the conflicts of scientist and subject, and good old-fashioned gore. It’s a welcome change of pace for monster movies, aiding this splatter epic to be one of the very best of the decade.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) has built the most exciting new piece of technology reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) has ever seen. What initially looks like a designer phone booth or some cheap parlor trick turns out to be a “telepod” capable of breaking down an object and recreating it several feet away in a second pod compartment. It’s an astonishing invention that quickly leads Veronica to become romantically involved with Seth – especially when he intrigues her with the idea of documenting his work.

After experimenting successfully with inanimate objects, he tests a baboon, which ends up getting turned inside out. Once Seth solves the predicaments of transporting flesh, he tests the teleportation on himself. At first, he feels completely rejuvenated, stronger, like a million bucks. But soon he experiences side effects such as tough hairs sprouting from his back and all sorts of oozing sores. It’s not long before Veronica convinces him something went wrong, and he discovers that a common housefly was inside the telepod with him during his first trial run.

“I’ve gotten much, much worse,” Brundle nerve-wrackingly foreshadows. “Please come see me… right now.” Geena Davis may be a bit too brave and not squeamish enough for realism, but she somehow manages to make viewers believe in her distraught feelings for the man she once loved, who is slowly being consumed by insect instincts. Genuine emotion and believable pathos make their way into what could have been merely a schlock monster flick, injecting it with purpose and awe. Goldblum, too, gives a remarkable performance as the doomed scientist who is both scared of his grotesque transformation and curious to see how nature will react to his genetic interference. Amusingly, he goes so far as to collect and document the various pieces of his body that fall away as the fly genes start to take over.

Cronenberg’s version of “The Fly” is as masterful as John Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing.” They both build upon the genius of the original stories, refuse to downgrade the quality of filmmaking and storytelling, and modernize them with special effects and new levels of terror that transcend the predominantly science-fiction themes of their predecessors. The practical prosthetics and makeup effects (nabbing an Academy Award for artists Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis) in “The Fly” ensure that they hold up much better throughout the years; visually, it’s still as frightfully vomitous, darkly humorous, and tragically beautiful as when it first premiered. Taking time to build anticipation, develop characters, and toy with the audience’s fears and fascinations (all wonderfully backed by Howard Shore’s haunting score), “The Fly” is one of Cronenberg’s most inspiring and celebrated films, and an incredible piece of science-fiction horror.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10