This is how you do a remake: The Fly
Be Afraid. Be very afraid.
What a line. Geena Davis utters this much imitated piece of dialogue roughly two-thirds of the way through The Fly, Cronenberg’s seminal horror film. The Fly has everything: nail-biting horror, hard science fiction, superb writing, outrageous special effects, fine performances, repellent imagery and is one of the definitive horror films of the 80’s.
This period of Cronenberg’s career was arguably his most impressive. He was possibly at the peak of his powers, and for some reason decided to remake an old B-movie from the 50’s. An odd creative decision, to be sure, but one that he turned into solid gold. The Fly is, according to many, his best film (I prefer Dead Ringers), and by any reasonable standard is an absolute classic of both science fiction and horror.
Just in case you’ve lived under a rock and haven’t seen The Fly, this is the plot in a nutshell. Seth Brundle is a genius, he’s cracked teleportation. Unfortunately for him, an unexpected accident involving a fly being inside the pod when he initialised his first teleportation involved his DNA being fused to the insect’s leading to horrible mutation, eventually morphing him into “Brundlefly”, one of the most grotesque monsters of the 1980’s.
This is a tough review to write, as pretty much everything in this film is flawless. Jeff Goldblum gives a career best performance (no mean accolade in his career) as Brundle, Geena Davis has never been better either and the writing, special effects, direction and score are superb.
So, instead of just writing a dull review of an obvious 4 Chang movie, I’m going to try to lay out why I think it’s brilliant. Firstly, I can’t think of another film that does this, but am willing to be corrected: Cronenberg has his monster speak. Goldblum delivers several monologues (in the form of a video diary) that explain exactly what he’s going through. This is the first film I saw that allowed such an insight into the monstrous transformation the character was undergoing, and Goldblum vocalises his torment with some sublime black humour “maybe a children’s TV show” leaping to mind.
Secondly, this is a masterpiece of body horror. There are several searing images of mutilation (the acid on the foot), but the high point in terms of fear in the film is Geena Davis’ harrowing nightmare. Giving birth messily to a giant maggot while screaming in pain is an image that I bet stays with many a woman, and I think is the perfect illustration of many of Cronenberg’s themes.
Thirdly, and this is unusual for a horror film, especially one as messy as The Fly, but there is a real sense of pathos to Brundle’s plight. He’s losing his humanity bit by bit, but still manages to elicit some sympathy from the viewer. Even at the climax of the film, where Brundle has lost all humanity he asks Ronny why she was going to have an abortion or kill “son of Brundle”. The misery and lack of comprehension that Goldblum manages to give this moment is simply superb, and the monster’s final act is to hold the barrel of a shotgun to his own head. This is, despite of the gore and carnage floating around, a touching scene.
Then there’s the monster himself. I’ve already said that this is a film with stunning practical effects, and it is, but the final version of Brundlefly is a masterpiece of creature design and makeup. It doesn’t particularly resemble a human being any more, being more of a grotesque insectoid than anything else, but it really does stand at the forefront of the great monsters of a decade with plenty of great monsters. It’s superb work.
Finally, because I can go on about this one forever, but The Fly is a funny film, it’s laced through with smart lines, brilliantly delivered by Goldblum- who is no mean comic actor, and amusing scenes. Davis boss watching the video of Brundle demonstrating how Brundlefly eats is, believe it or not, intentionally funny and the whole film is laced through with little comic moments.
The Fly is, I believe, a truly seminal movie. Cronenberg took the original from the 1950’s and made it his own. Although it may technically be a remake, this is such an original and breathtaking work in the genre that I consider it to stand very proudly by itself. The Fly is funny and frightening, gory and sad and really is an absolute gem of a film.
Overall, it should be pretty obvious that I do recommend this film. In fact, I can’t recommend it enough- The Fly is a genuine masterpiece and I give it a maximum 4 Changs.
Next up is Dead Ringers- it’s another glowing review, and as I’m sick of writing them, Mrs. Jarv may do it. She said she wants to, and she does love it.
The order so far:
The order so far ranked by preference:
- The Fly (4 Changs)
- Videodrome (4 Changs)
- Scanners (3.5 Changs)
- The Brood (3 Changs)
- The Dead Zone (3 Changs)
- Shivers (2 Changs)
- Rabid (1 Chang)
- Fast Company (Orangutan of Doom)