The Fly (1986)
the fly | remake | david cronenberg | charles edward pogue | jeff goldblum | geena davis | john getz | monster | creature | drama | sci-fi | united states | joy boushel | leslie carlson | george chuvalo | michael copeman | carol lazare | shawn hewitt | ann green | typhoon
Film: The Fly
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: Charles Edward Pogue and David Cronenberg
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz
This is an interesting movie for me. I saw part of it growing up on the movie channels, but it wouldn’t be until I was an adult and got into horror movie podcasts that I watched it start to finish. I’m quite mad at myself to be honest as I quite enjoyed this. It is one that I can appreciate the more I see it now as well. This is one that I showed to Jaime during October as well as I thought she would like it.
Synopsis: a brilliant, but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.
We start this at a party where Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) meets Veronica Quiafe (Geena Davis). He is a scientist and he is telling her that he has found the next major discovery. She is a reporter and this seems like something she’s heard before. He tries to entice her to come back to his lab to see it, but she is reluctant. He is able to get her to join him after piquing her interest.
There is an interesting scene in the car where Seth gets motion sickness. I thought this was clever. The reason is that he has created two chambers that will allow him to teleport inanimate objects from one to the other. He does an experiment with one of her stockings. She is impressed but doesn’t believe it at first. She decides to record their conversation. The tape runs out so she goes to change to a new one and he realizes what she’s doing. He informs her that she cannot write about this and asks for the tape. She refuses and leaves.
Veronica works for Stathis Borans (John Getz), who is also her former boyfriend. He doesn’t believe her. He tries to say that he’s a ‘magician’ and put on performance. Part of this is jealousy. Stathis is also shocked when Seth shows up to the office. He asks Veronica to follow his work, to document it, but not for an article. He wants her to do it as a book. She takes him up on this offer. She then starts to stay over and films everything with a video camera.
She inquires about sending something that is alive. He shows her the aftermath of what happens when he teleports anything that is living, when he tries with a baboon. It turns out to be a bloody mess. Later she says something that hits home to him and might be the missing part. This scene shows an electronic piece jammed into Seth’s back and it cut him.
That is when he realizes the computer running the experiment is interpreting flesh and how to put things together, not just teleporting them. He alters it and successfully teleports a baboon. Veronica realizes that Stathis is jealous when he’s going to run her original article out of spite. She leaves to talk to him. This upsets Seth. In a drunken state, he teleports himself. He doesn’t realize that a fly got into the pod with him when he did.
He comes out changed, for the better or so he thinks. This makes him want Veronica to go through, thinking that it alters your DNA to make you stronger. That is until she notices weird hairs on his back. She has them analyzed and their best guess is belonging to an insect. Soon there are other changes that come over Seth as he tries to find out what happened and if there is a way to fix it.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that David Cronenberg is good at doing body horror while grounding it. If memory serves, he was in medical school before deciding to become a filmmaker. That shows. What I like here is that we have these two characters in Seth and Veronica who feel real. How things end up also does as well. These are fantastical things while still making it feel like it could happen.
Now I want to delve a bit more into these two characters. Seth is eccentric as the synopsis says. I don’t think that Goldblum had to do a lot to get into this character as he’s just quirky. I’m not nearly as smart as Seth, but I’m sarcastic like he is. Davis is also wonderful as Veronica. When they first meet, she is leery of him. She is an attractive, modern woman so she knows what she must do. I know that I tend to gripe about love stories that move fast. With how Veronica does what she wants, it feels to me that it started as sex and that she developed feelings. It helps that Goldblum and Davis were dating at the time as there’s great chemistry. They’re both great here.
Where I then want to go would be with the experiment and the body horror so I’ll also pull in the effects. I love how subtly this is done with the changes to Seth. At first, he just seems superhuman. He can do physical feats that make him feel great. It isn’t until he becomes more insect like that he starts to panic and investigate what happened. These were done practical. It is amazing, it is gross, but going back to something I said earlier, it feels like this could be happening despite the fantastic or sci-fi nature of it. Cronenberg does an amazing job here without going over the top in my opinion.
The last bit that I want to go into is going to social commentary. I’ve heard that originally it was thought to be a movie about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Cronenberg did refute that and say it is more of seeing your loved one die of cancer. We see the different stages of grief for Seth and how he drives Veronica away. When he is faced with his mortally, he shallows his pride to not deal with this alone. It is tough for Veronica as well. To see a loved one whither away from the person they were it heartbreaking for sure.
There is also one last aspect and that is toxic masculinity. We see this in both Seth and Stathis. For the former, his comes first when he experiments on himself in a drunken stupor out of jealousy for Veronica going to see Stathis. He doesn’t know that she’s telling him to back off. When Seth feels superhuman and looking for a woman to keep up with him, he is a real jerk at the bar and to Tawny (Joy Boushel). The worst one though is Stathis. He’s the ex that always thought Veronica would be there. I get the idea that he treated bad, which is what caused them to split. He is willing to run the article that he mocked her for to get her back. He does things that are toxic and he’s not a great guy. I will give him a bit of credit for being there for her when Seth is changing. This gets him closer so of course he would be.
I should go over to the acting next. I’ve already said how good Goldblum and Davis are. I like Getz in his role. He plays a sleazy character like this so well so I give him credit there. Boushel, Leslie Carlson and the rest of the cast round this out for what was needed. We even get a cameo by Cronenberg himself as a gynecologist. The only other aspects would be the cinematography, which is good. The soundtrack is solid as well with another team up with Howard Shore.
In conclusion, this is a such a good movie. We are getting a love story at the heart of this, but I love the sci-fi and the body horror that is paired with it. Not sure this would work as well if not for how good Goldblum and Davis are. The effects are amazing. I think this is just a well-made movie. It falls in an interesting stretch for Cronenberg where he didn’t make a bad movie. We can also see the growth of his concepts as he moves them more toward the mainstream. This is one I’d recommend to horror and non-horror fans alike.
My Rating: 9.5 out of 10