No introduction is needed for another of Cronenberg’s powerhouse films, the reputation of ‘The Fly’ being Cronenberg’s best is well deserved.
As for plot, the tagline ‘Half man. Half insect. Total terror’ says it all. A brilliant scientist, perfecting his technique of teleportation gets pissed one evening and decides to give his invention a go himself. Unknown to him a house fly also gets into the ‘telepod’ with him and when he rematerialises he realises that the computer has fused his DNA with that of the Fly. Over time he begins to change. Throw an ill-fated love story into the mix and you got a movie which backs up its visceral and gooey visuals with a gut punch to the feels.
Despite the dodgy premise, and forget the camp nature of the 1950s original, Cronenberg’s extensive re-write of the script makes some wise choices seeing the movie take a more confident and serious tone. On the surface, this is gory horror, but it doesn’t really take a genius to seen the metaphors hidden within certain events which effectively mirror our own gradual growth and decline until death; couple this with some strong performances and it’s not difficult to see why despite being a remake, this version is considered vastly superior.
Instead of taking the easy way out and having half man/half fly going on a mad one for 90 minutes we see the good doctor (Goldblum) gradually taking the traits of a fly into his own persona (extra strength, greater athleticism) before the final stomach churning alteration. Along for the ride, his newly besotted girlfriend tries to reason with him, but as his human body rots his mind and reason also begin to deteriorate. Again, looking beyond (the admittedly) great visuals and creature design, Cronenberg gives us a complexity within the characters to both route for and pity. Mans hubris was to blame ultimately, but there’s a playful naivety makes the lesson hard learned feel somewhat unjust.
As I’ve already mentioned the effects are simply stunning and hold up really well today. Whilst admittedly, much of the creature effects are showcased in the films final third, even the more subtle ‘transformation’ effects look great and as the movie progresses there are some grim precursors of where things are going.
The best of which, of course is saved for last!
As the good Dr’s body decays, we get to see parts of it just drop off, and in the case of his jaw, ripped off. These all look really cool. There are plenty of other scenes which I won’t ruin, but my favourite bit above all others is where he vomits up digestive enzymes all over a guys hand and leg and essentially lets those little biological catalysts eat his skin! – That bit seriously disgusting!
Overall, you combine some decent acting from Jeff Goldblum, awesome gore/creature effects and Cronenberg’s unique and committed style of filmmaking and you’ve got a hit; the sequel a testament to what it could have been in less competent hands, but more on that to follow…