There’s only a few particular kinds of horror that really get to me: demonic possession and body horror. I can handle the Freddie Krugers, the creepy children, and the monsters of the genre, but put me in a room with a really well-done possession film like The Conjuring or something gory like Hostel and I’ll be hiding behind my hands even if I’m watching them at home. I was more than a little nervous about David Cronenberg’s The Fly especially since he’s a master of body horror. There are some really gross, make-your-skin-crawl moments in the film but, after the initial shock, I often found myself just taking in how amazing the makeup work is.
Based on a short story by George Langelaan, this 1986 remake adapted by Charles Edward Pogue & David Cronenberg wastes no time in jumping into the meat of the story. The film clocks in at 96 minutes so there’s not much room to add in unnecessary scenes at all and the majority of the film is spent, to everyone’s delight, on Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum)’s transformation into a human-fly hybrid.
Still, even with the no-nonsense approach to the film, we’re quickly introduced to Brundle and Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) and it’s hard not to like them. Not to discredit the script (which is full of witty banter) but how do you not love Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum? They’re so endearing and charismatic just on their own so it’s just delightful to watch them go back and forth in a scene. I cared about their relationship and the emotional aspects of it almost as much as I cared about seeing Goldblum become a fly and that’s saying something. I would have liked a more well-rounded antagonist in Stathis Borans (John Getz), Veronica’s editor and ex-lover. Stathis is a creep in every way and there seem to be no real redeeming qualities to him and yet Veronica puts up with him (though not romantically). He’s mostly awkward and uncomfortable and until the finale sequence, it was kind of unclear to me what purpose exactly he was meant to serve throughout. While he’s certainly a drawback, he helps the story move along, often cutting to a scene with Veronica and Stathis before jumping back to Brundle, further and further along in his transformation each time.
The slow transformation from Brundle to Brundlefly to giant fly is so impressive. Sometimes, wearing up to five pounds of prosthetics, Goldblum becomes almost unrecognizable under Chris Walas’ careful hands. Much like An American Werewolf in London, the effects in the film are all practical and that’s what makes it so impressive. It’s not hard to see why this film won an Oscar for its creature effects.
The way the film shows Brundle’s transformation is fascinating and the progress makes so much sense. It’s more and more grotesque but that’s where it becomes so fascinating. Though it can be gratuitous in the more horrifying elements of his transformation such as having to watch Brundle peel off his own fingernails or the toxic vomit he uses to disintegrate his food. It can be a lot but when you read about the scenes that were cut from the film, they don’t seem so bad. Google them. They’re awful. I’m more than happy with what we got.In fact, I’m not sure much more of this level of nasty would have been a selling point. There’s a limit to what you can endure in a 90 minute period and The Fly brings you up so close to the limit (if it doesn’t push you over the edge) and uses each terrifying moment to its full effectiveness.
If you’re interested at all in the creature or the makeup, definitely check this film out. It might get under your skin and make you a little nauseous if you’ve got a weak stomach, but it’s so impressive. Though not for the faint of heart, I definitely recommend this film for your Halloween viewing this year.