Friday, October 15, 2010

DR. SHOCK'S HALLOWEENIE MOVIE OF THE DAY: THE FLY (1986). I must admit that David Cronenberg has always left me rather cold. I mean, the whole "body horror" thing isn't an obsession/fear of mine and doesn't scare or fascinate me particularly. Also, I have admittedly only seen about 2 or 3 of his films so I'm not talking from a vast store of knowledge, here. In fact, until today -- almost a quarter century after it's release -- I had never even SEEN Cronenberg's version of THE FLY! But I've seen it now and, while I think the vast praise the film has garnered is a tad overboard, I found it to be a very good horror film. THE FLY, of course, is a remake of the classic 50's version we all loved as a kid (and I still love despite it's flaws). The original was based quite closely on the George Langelaan short story (which I HAVE read in my trusty Playboy horror fiction paperback) but the Cronenberg film owes practically nothing to the story or the earlier film. This is not surprising since, as John McCarty so astutely puts it, Cronenberg is probably the most "Un-homage-y" horror directors around and really never provides any nostalgic tributes to past horror movies or directors; his screenplay (with Charles Edward Pogue) is largely an original work owing only the basic premise to Langelaan's story. The best thing about the film is that the characters are so well-written and breathe a real life to them. The chief problem with the original 50's THE FLY is that the characters are not involving or touching in their one-dimensionality. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) and Veronica (Geena Davis) involve the viewer almost from the first moments of the film and we actually care about them. Seth, of course, is the reclusive, socially awkward scientist who has cobbled together a teleportation machine and Veronica is the reporter who becomes involved first for the exclusive story but eventually for a genuine relationship with Brundle. Davis and Goldblum (who, you remember, were an actual couple at the time) really sell the genuine caring, loving relationship. . .which makes it all the more tragic when it all goes horribly wrong.
Seth has a problem teleporting living flesh; a baboon he teleports in turned grotesquely inside-out. The problem is expertly illustrated by the scene in which Seth transports a steak through the "telepods" and has Veronica taste it; she spits it out saying it has a "synthetic" taste and Seth embarks on a regime of teaching the computer the "art" and essence of flesh so that it can reproduce it accurately and a living subject can then be teleported successfully. Just exactly how one types into a computer keyboard and "teaches" a computer about the magical, lyrical intangibles of such a thing is probably the biggest flaw in the film's believability but that's no big gripe. While Veronica is off tending to the recurrent problem of her ex-boyfriend Stathis (John Getz), Brundle gets drunk and decides he has successfully solved the computer's problem and sends himself through the teleporter -- of course, along with a stowaway fly in the telepod. At first, Brundle feels energized and "purified", gaining strength and agility, but the slowly-evolving realization that his DNA has been spliced with the fly's is really beautifully done by Cronenberg. As Brundle gets more and more grotesque and unpleasant, the make-up work is very effective. A little later on, when Goldblum is leaping around in a full body monster suit, the effects are rather less impressive. Then finally, when the completely-transformed "Brundlefly" emerges, the effects (by Chris Walas) are very good again. And, of course, the wonderfully over-the-top "delivery room scene" is a tremendous hoot! The film got quite a lot of notice when released, and justifiably so, but the somewhat worshipful attitude of some towards the film is rather undeserved. All in all, THE FLY is a very good horror movie well-worth the time.

1 comment:

wellyousaythat said...

The Fly is a superb movie and I think you've conjured up it's appeal in your post. Favourite line:
Girl in bar: "Are you some kind of a body builder?"
Brundle:"yes I build bodies"