Showcasing the best of body horror the eighties had to offer, The Fly is now a veritable cult classic. You might be wondering why I’m talking about it since this is such a famous movie so let me clear that up first. The first time I saw this movie was in my teens and it left a big impression on me. At that time, I was more into action and science fiction, discarding the “crummy old eighties movies” as outdated. However, this one scared me the fuck straight.
The Fly is based on a short story published in, believe it or not, but Playboy magazine back in 1957. This is the second adaptation and a loose remake of the original 1958 movie starring Vincent Price. Now, oddly enough, I even remember that version as well, especially one of the last scenes when he’s on the bench. However, this movie will be seared into your memory as one of the more grotesque, nasty and bizarre horror movies of the eighties.
It’s not only visually impactful but throughout this whole ordeal, you identify with Brundle. You feel what he feels and you wonder what would you do in such a situation. No matter how unlikely it seems. And it stays strong throughout, with one hell of an ending. With a solid $15 million budget and David Cronenberg at the helm, The Fly took the eighties by storm. It quickly became the largest commercial success of Cronenberg’s career also launching Jeff Goldblum’s career.
He gave one hell of a performance here especially when you consider just how demanding the production was. The man had to sit still for five fucking hours waiting for the makeup department to apply the now-infamous Brundlefly. He also looks like a true eighties lead and not like a nerdy scientist guy from Jurassic Park. He’s got the muscles, charisma, and screen presence of an action star.
Seth Brundle is a brilliant scientist on a brink of discovering a way to transport matter using a kind of teleportation device. Journalist Veronica Quaife quickly smells a story here and two of them start talking about his revolutionary research. So far Seth was able to teleport inanimate objects, but his first experiment with live subjects goes horribly wrong. As he keeps working, he and Veronica keep getting closer and closer. Soon he will succeed in his efforts to teleport living objects. And as a brilliant scientist, he will test out this technique on himself. But something will go wrong, terribly wrong.
There’s no CGI here just plain old practical effects that look positively gross and unnerving. And they stood the test of time, I can tell you that. No wonder Walas and Dupuis won an Academy Award for Best Makeup for their work on the special effects. They were very visceral and in-your-face, adding another dimension to an already complex movie with a seemingly simplistic story.
A story about science going too far, almost Lovecraftian in nature although this is a common theme of old. Speaking of themes, we will also explore the metaphysical and psychological aspects of such existence. These themes were not explored in a the sequel, The Fly II, directed by Walas. Apparently, the man can do wonders when it comes to special effects but struggles with storytelling.
All of this is neatly packaged into 96-minute movie that never gets boring or dull. There’s always either something to think about or witness. Cronenberg has such sights to show us. You can also see just how much he has grown since his last body horror movie Scanners. Two years after The Fly he released Dead Ringers, one of his best movies ever. So, be sure to check it out if you’re looking for more of the same.
I have to mention the baboon as well. His name is Typhoon and he has been notoriously difficult to handle. There’s no such thing as a tame baboon, Cronenberg recalls. So, his wrangler and none other than Jeff Goldblum were in charge of controlling him. This is where Jeff’s physical abilities came to good use as he was able to “dominate him”. If you want to see just how nasty Typhoon can get, do check 1990’s Shakma.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: George Langelaan, Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel, George Chuvalo, Joy Boushel
Fun Facts: The Fly’s vomit consists of honey, eggs and milk.