*WARNING* THIS POST MAY FEATURE SOME GRAPHIC CONTENT SO READER/VIEWER DISCRETION IS HIGHLY ADVISED!
Released: August 1986
Director: David Cronenberg
Run Time: 96 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Jeff Goldblum: Seth Brundle
Geena Davis: Veronica Quaife
John Getz: Stathis Borans
The horror film genre came into a new golden age during the 70s and 80s with films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday The 13th. The use of special effects in horror movies really came to a head some of these films. Visual effects in movies is nothing new, it’s been done since the beginning of cinema. However, there was a very special time during the 80s in which visual effects were not only second-to-none but helped really drive some of these movies. John Carpenter’s The Thing is widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi/horror movies ever made. The success of which was not only due to the stellar cast and writing, but also the gruesome visual effects by Rob Bottin which still hold even over 30 years later. The Thing was one of three re-makes that would be released during the 80s which featured gut-wrenching special effects. The other two were the re-make of The Blob in 1988 and David Cronenberg’s version of The Fly in 1986. Of those three films, I consider The Fly to be the best of them. Why? Let’s take a gander.
Opening at a science fair, scientist Seth Brundle catches the attention of science journalist Veronica Quaife. Initially discussing the potential future of transportation, Seth takes Veronica back to his warehouse apartment, where it is revealed that he is working on a method of teleportation: A form of transportation that could change the world. After successfully teleporting one of Veronica’s stockings, they escalate the experiments to living animals, one of which dies in a gruesome failure. After an epiphany and some re-calculations, Seth decides to try teleporting himself. After successfully teleporting himself, Seth begins to exhibit some drastic changes, particularly super-strength and high energy. Later, Seth literally begins to fall apart as he realizes that when he teleported himself, a housefly got stuck in the pod with him and fused with him on a genetic level. Unable to do anything, Veronica is forced to watch as Seth continues to deteriorate and change into something horrible. The story here is not what I would call unique in terms of the whole “science gone amok” deal, which has been happening in horror movies since the original Frankenstein. What makes the story here compelling is in how it focuses on the characters, specifically Seth and Veronica and what these experiments do to their relationship. The best horror movies, at their core, are tragedies, because the main characters, even through good intentions, end up creating or doing something awful that has far-reaching consequences. The Fly really takes that to a gruesome extreme.
Before I get into the effects, I want to explore the acting in the film. The acting in The Fly is simply put: Beyond exceptional. Jeff Goldblum’s performance here is one for the record books and should have netted him an Oscar for Best Actor. He starts off as this nerdy scientist(in the only way that Jeff Goldblum can, of course), but over the course of the film, he begins to develop a relationship with Geena Davis’ Veronica(seems very genuine, considering the two were dating at the time). He then gains more confidence as his experiments become more successful, but when he starts to fall apart, we feel his fear and dread as he continues to deteriorate. Like-wise, Geena Davis’ performance is equally compelling as someone who genuinely falls in love with Seth, but is faced with helplessness and terror as she witnesses her boyfriend mutate into something terrible. The on-screen relationship between the two feels real. It feels real, because the writing is sharp and on point. That is also what makes this film as much of a tragedy as a full-on horror film. Not only does Seth deteriorate, so does his relationship with Veronica. It’s really heartbreaking because these are characters that you truly care about. In my opinion, THAT’S what helps make this movie one of the greatest horror movies of all time.
Only David Cronenberg could have handled a movie like this, because the visual effects in The Fly are gut-wrenchingly awesome and disturbing at the same time. This is body-horror at its finest. Initially the effects aren’t necessarily as gruesome, except for the incident when one of the monkeys is literally turned inside-out. However, as Seth decays, the details really become more pronounced and very, VERY gory. When he starts pulling his nails out and loses his teeth, it’s uncomfortable to sit through. As Seth de-volves into a fly-human hybrid, his physical appearance becomes even more haunting and disturbing. It’s towards the end of the film that the visual effects really begin to shine in a goopy and gory fashion. Seth’s final form is hideous and what he does to John Getz’s character is really freaking gross. The best thing about all these visual effects? They’re all done practically. The scene in which Seth crawls on the ceiling is wild, because they built a room that rotates, not unlike the room that was used in Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s far more convincing than if they had used wires. The Fly, along with The Thing, changed the game when it came to special effects.
If I really have any nitpicks, it’s really with John Getz’s character, Stathis. He’s a real douchebag of a third-wheel in a triangle that doesn’t quite need to happen. As a result, you don’t feel any sympathy for what happens to him at the end of the film. Ultimately, that’s my only real beef with The Fly, and it’s not really that big of one. David Cronenberg, who helmed body-horror movies like Videodrome and Scanners would go on to direct films like Naked Lunch, ExisTenz, A History of Violence, and Eastern Promises. However, it’s The Fly that many people, myself included, consider to be his greatest achievement. Along with a wicked-awesome musical score by Howard Shore, The Fly earns its place among the greatest horror movies of all time and proves that a movie like this can have a solid story and great characters to get behind. The less said about the tepid sequel, the better, however. That being said, this is a film that belongs in the collections of true horror buffs.
My Final Recommendation: Teleportation is far too risky. Cars and walking are safer. 9.5/10.