31 Screams in October, #23: The Fly (1986)

Posted: October 23, 2014 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Fly (1986)

Director: David Cronenberg

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Remakes are looked upon with such disdain, and rightly so. Generally, they are little more than cash cows cooked up by greedy studio heads who think that anything they regurgitate will be accepted by the general public… which, sadly, is not that inaccurate. Those of us who crave something more… something original… would prefer any remakes to be of movies which actually could benefit from a modern update. But when does that ever happen? Certainly not with horror movies, right? Remakes from this genre are constantly buzzing around like the annoying housefly that you can’t get close enough to swat.

Young scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is about to give reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) a story the likes of which careers are made. At his home/laboratory, Seth demonstrates his world-changing invention: a teleportation device which he has (boringly) labeled a “telepod.” He’s got three of them, one a prototype, and the other two interconnected by his computer. It’s not the name that’s important, as he shows with the aid of one of Veronica’s stockings. Like a magician’s trick, Veronica watches as her stocking is beamed from one telepod to the other, only she doesn’t “get it.” More accurately, Seth tells her, she “can’t handle it.” In what seems like no time at all (just over 20 minutes of movie time), the two go from being complete strangers to lovers.

Problems arise when it becomes clear that the telepod cannot successfully transport organic matter. Anything living gets turned inside out (which looks even more gruesome than it sounds). The problem seems to be corrected when an experiment with a steak reveals that the computer only knows how to give its synthetic interpretation of what makes a steak a steak. Kind of makes you want to wait a while longer for those “Star Trek” food replicators to be invented. However, no invention is ever truly perfect. Seth gets jealous when he figures out that Veronica’s boss, Stathis Borans (John Getz) is also a former lover. Getting drunk while worrying himself over the possibility of Veronica leaving him for Stathis, Seth attempts teleportation alone. Unbeknownst to him, a fly joins Seth inside the telepod, and then is joined WITH Seth.

Exhibiting superhuman strength and agility, not to mention enhanced stamina in the bedroom, Seth’s physical appearance is also changing, This is where the Academy Award-winning makeup by Stephan Dupuis and Chris Walas (director of the 1989 sequel, “The Fly II”) takes center stage. This movie’s gradual, delightfully hideous approach to the fly transformation acts akin to that of some kind of fearsome disease like leprosy, only worse. As time goes by, coarse insect hairs poke through Seth’s skin, and body parts start falling off. His bathroom cabinet quickly becoms a museum paying tribute to the man that once was Seth Brundle, who now refers to himself as “Brundlefly.”

As impressive as its effects are (and they really are), “The Fly” works because of Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. On top of being terrific, reliable actors, they also have great chemistry. Both are able to involve the audience in the emotional turmoil they both face as a result of Seth’s accidental transformation. Had David Cronenberg cast anyone other than these two, I question whether the movie would work even half as well. Because it does, “The Fly” is that rarest of remake that not only lives up to the original, but leaves it far behind. The 1958 version, starring David Hedison and Vincent Price, is hokey and comical. The 1986 version leaves little room for laughter, except in some of the movie’s early, cute moments between Seth and Veronica prior to the accident. It is brutal and it is tragic. Most of all, its level of creativity displays an unusual willingness for a horror movie to evolve, and “The Fly” is one of the very best genre remakes of the 1980’s or any other decade.

  1. rarehorror says:

    Love this film. While Cronenberg’s filmography is pretty darn excellent, this is near the top for me.

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