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The Fly (1986)

Anaconda Vice

Well-Known Member
May 21, 2011
The Fly

Seth Brundle, a brilliant but eccentric scientist attempts to woo investigative journalist Veronica Quaife by offering her a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment have proved successful, to a point. Brundle thinks he has ironed out the last problem when he successfully transports a living creature, but when he attempts to teleport himself a fly enters one of the transmission booths, and Brundle finds he is a changed man.

The Fly, released in 1986, is a remake of a classic horror film from the 1950's by a modern master, David Cronenberg. Along with John Carpenter, George A. Romero and Wes Craven, no other director made more of an impact on the horror genre in the late 1970's and 1980's than Cronenberg. Though he has since moved on to more thriller based material (Eastern Promises, A History of Violence), his contributions to horror cannot be denied. Here he crafts a minor masterpiece, updating a great original and taking it out a disgusting new door, rife with grotesque imagery, metaphors for disease and a heartbreaking finale. He also managed to create a film that, while disquieting in imagery, didn't rely solely on shock value in order to scare its audience. Instead he crafted a slow burning piece that penetrates the senses, disturbs on an emotional level and stays with the viewer long after its finished. Cronenberg is a true auteur, and The Fly stands as a shining example of his work during this particular period in his career.

"Soup's on....."

David Cronenberg directs and writes along with co-scripter Charles Edward Pogue (Psycho III) and the film, while a remake, wisely chooses to go down its own path instead of simply becoming a carbon copy of the original. Cronenberg's earliest works such as They Came from Within (AKA Shivers), Rabid and The Brood spent a great deal of time focusing on the idea of sexuality and disease coming together to create a new form of horror. Here he expands on these ideas, using the plight of his main character as a metaphor for cancer, disease and the aging process in general. While its not overtly stated as such, it is clear to me that this was his intention. After all, you don't get the nickname "The King of Venereal Horror" for making slasher films right? I found it interesting that the public soon began to see it as a film about the AIDS virus which was quickly sweeping through the world at this time, as its much more broad than that. While the film still comes across as a sci-horror piece, its brilliance is in its understated messages and strong individual performances from its leads.

"This vaguely reminds me of a Paul Simon song title."

Jeff Goldblum is cast as Seth Brundle and does a remarkable job with the character, really making the role his own. Of course it helps that Goldblum is a great actor but he even manages to outdo himself in this film. In fact, I honestly think it may be his best performance which is saying a lot because of the amount of great ones he's had over the years. He really imbues the character with a wild sense of discovery and a reckless abandon, something which will end up coming back to haunt him later on. Once he transforms into Brundle-Fly, he really gets a chance to shine, showing a hauntingly slow descent into madness as good as I've ever seen an actor do it. Geena Davis plays his love-interest and manages to do a great job playing off both of Goldblum's incarnations here, particularly in her emotional responses to dealing with his rapidly changing body. John Getz is cast as a friend of Davis' who may want to be something a little more and he plays the smarmy character very well, as he does in most films he's cast in. This film also stars Canadian boxing legend George Chuvalo in a minor role and its always nice to see him pop up in places, his life would make a particularly compelling (and depressing) film.

"They call me big sexy for a reason, I'm big....and I'm sexy."

The special effects work here is simply fantastic, really making the most of the limitations of the time and creating some horrific images that will quickly etch themselves into your memory. I particularly enjoyed the later versions of Brundle-Fly as they are really grotesque looking while still allowing the character to retain some level of sympathy, kind of similar to a leper. It's important to remember that with each "change" Brundle goes through, he becomes less and less of a man, and while its a fly he is turning into, the idea is not so much him becoming an insect as it is him dying at an advanced rate. Goldblum really sells this metamorphosis well, and it is in this aspect of his performance that he truly shines. Along with him, the makeup work by Chris Walas really helps to breathe life into this character, and Walas was rightfully honoured with an Academy Award for his efforts here. At one point, there was hype that Goldblum himself would receive an Oscar nomination for his work on the film, though he ultimately did not. This is most likely due to the stuffy Academy voters not normally honouring horror films, but its still a shame, because it is an award-worthy performance to be sure.

"Help me...help me...."

The end of this film is truly its strongest sequence and actually ranks highly on my list of great movie finales, though it is deeply emotional and also quite distressing. Brundle-Fly manages to somehow fuse itself with the metal of the teleportation pod that its using and in doing so becomes a sort of twisted and mangled mess. Unable to speak, it simply goes over to Davis' character and nudges her, as if asking her to end his misery and suffering, which she reluctantly does. The character comes across as hauntingly real and incredibly sad, which in turn elicits an emotional response from the viewer who understands why its suffering must end but has trouble reconciling the outcome. This is the same moral judgement that plagues many people who are faced with the prospect of "pulling the plug" on their own loved ones and believe me, if you've ever been in that position you can quickly identify with Davis' character. This is really high concept stuff for a sci-horror film, but Cronenberg makes it work on every conceivable level and The Fly manages to transcend the standard horror genre and become something entirely different. In fact, it undergoes its own metamorphosis throughout its duration, not unlike Brundle's, which means that it in essence becomes itself. While there have been many socially conscious films made before or since, I definitely think The Fly belongs up there with the best of them, which is perhaps the highest praise I can give it.

"Clearly he's got relationship issues."

The Fly was shot on a budget of $15 million and grossed over $60 million at the box office, becoming Cronenberg's most successful film to that point. Though it had questionable subject matter and a talented but somewhat maverick director, the film managed to strike a nerve with audiences, a real testament to its overall quality. Outside of Goldblum's obvious snub at the hands of the Academy, critical response to the film was overwhelmingly positive and it maintains a strong and devoted cult following to this day. The Fly challenges us to think about lots of things, the dangers of scientific exploration, the understanding of how to cope with loss and the pain of watching a loved one deteriorate. It is uniquely compelling material that demands attention from its viewer, but it never wavers from the message its trying to spread. That, along with Goldblum's performance, makes it must see cinema and I think it deserves nothing less than my highest recommendation. 9/10.

​"Stick around, there's more to come around these parts."


Well-Known Member
Aug 6, 2010
Excellent review Anaconda Vice Anaconda Vice! Cronenberg is one of of my favourite directors too and the Fly is very unique for its genre. The casting is spot on and like you said the make-up effects and story really effective. I like how it nods to classic horror with some of the dialouge too. Cronenberg often at his peak was a genre servy director, yet at the sametime had plenty to say about the human condition. This is one of his best films for sure. A great midnight movie!