I can’t help but appreciate a movie that can mix an emotional and tragic love story with some of the most horrific, disgusting and vomit-inducing images I have ever seen. David Cronenberg’s successful remake of The Fly accomplishes that and more.
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is an eccentric scientist who is making breakthroughs with a teleportation device he invented. He uses it as an attempt to impress a journalist named Veronica (Geena Davis). She agrees to keep his research a secret in exchange for the rights to document his work, which will be a story that could advance her career tremendously. At first, Seth can only teleport inanimate objects, as is seen when he attempts to teleport a live baboon and it ends up in a bloody mess. But eventually, with the inspiration he gains from the ever evolving romantic relationship he has with Veronica, he is able to teleport a live baboon with no harm done. However, one night when Veronica goes out to confront her ex-lover/boss (John Getz) about publishing the teleportation story prematurely, Seth finds himself in a jealous, drunken state when he begins thinking she is out rekindling her past relationship. He decides to test the machine on himself without her there, and does not notice when a fly slips into the pod with him. At first, he notices he has gained some physical benefits, like increased strength, but soon realizes after his physical appearance begins to change and his mental health deteriorates, that something has gone horribly wrong. What was once a sweet and intelligent man has now become “Brundlefly,” a being who becomes more monstrous the more the fly’s DNA begins to take over.
The Fly has to be one of the most visually disgusting movies I have ever seen. Let me also add that I hate house flies with the passion of a thousand burning suns. They are gross, annoying, and useless. At least spiders, which I also hate, serve a purpose. But flies just buzz around, dive-bomb your head, land on dog poop and then have the audacity to land on your food afterwards if you just so happen to be eating outside on a nice day for once. So a movie about a man who turns into a fly is seemingly not my cup of tea. However, I have to admit that as grossed out as I was, I can’t deny that this movie is a hallmark in the sci-fi/horror genre.
It’s easy to make a movie with some horrifying images of monsters and blood and guts. There’s plenty of those out there. But it’s not so easy to make one of those with a story that is actually developed and entertaining, and with characters who are memorable and have an on screen romance that is up to par with any other tragically romantic story you’ll find about one partner watching the one they love slowly deteriorate and disappear.
The Fly came out around the height of the AIDS epidemic, and many people who saw this film thought that it was a metaphor for the disease. However, Cronenberg had said he thought of it as a metaphor for disease in general, terminal illnesses like cancer, as well as aging. It is about a woman who is essentially watching her loved one die, which is often the case with people who know someone with a terminal illness, or similarly, people who watch their loved ones grow old. Of course, this underlying message is portrayed in a more imaginative and grotesque manner, but it still illustrates that message all the same.
Jeff Goldblum gives a great performance as a man-turned-fly. You sympathize with his character more than you fear him, and that’s important here. It helps to understand why Geena Davis’ character would ever stick around after seeing Seth go crazy and literally fall apart. The movie takes its time with the characters so that when the director breaks out the gross stuff, you’re already too emotionally involved in these two characters and their relationship to throw it all out the window and root for her to swat him to death with a megaton fly swatter. You may still somehow find yourself hoping that there is a way out of this unfortunate situation, right up until the end.
This movie surpassed my expectations the first time I saw it. I thought it would be strictly horror with a lot of nasty images added for shock value, but it ended up being so much more. Deep down, it’s not really a movie about a monster, it’s a movie about a man who falls in love and struggles to maintain his real self as genetics and instinct threaten to take over his body and mind, and a woman who stands by him until the very end.
I would recommend this movie to anyone wanting to prove that some remakes can be done better, and that the horror genre can contain much more than just horror itself. Just be wary if you’re squeamish, and don’t watch this while eating. Very, very bad idea.