“Be afraid. Be very afraid”
That was the tagline for David Cronenberg’s The Fly. A better tagline might’ve been: “Be disgusted. Be very disgusted.”
All joking aside, David Cronenberg’s 1986 reworking of the camp classic The Fly is a masterpiece of horror, a tragic romance with some of the best practical effects work in cinematic history. Real gross stuff. Real nasty, nasty stuff. And because I, your benevolent overlord, was even squeamish at this stuff, I shall show the mercy of not sharing it.
But the squick is something you have to move past in The Fly, because there’s some really good stuff here, narratively, and character-wise. The Fly is a masterwork of horror, a depressing, heartbreaking romance with a sci-fi twist.
Jeff Goldblum is Seth Brundle, an inventor out to change transportation forever by inventing a teleporter. Geena Davis is Veronica Quaife, a reporter out to make her big break covering Brundle, the story of the century. In doing so, following every step of the way, she falls in love with the quirky, charming, and handsome Brundle. Their relationship is what drives the film forward. Drunk one night, and believing Veronica has abandoned him, Brundle tests the telepods on himself, inadvertently, and unknowingly, merging himself with a fly. At first, all is great. He’s stronger, faster, more fit than before. But then other side effects, harmful side effects, show up. He grows strange bristles on his back. His skin breaks out. He starts losing his fingernails. And that’s just the beginning. It’s all up the mountain of disgust from here. But we’re not continuing the summary, because spoilers.
People don’t love The Fly for its gonzo effects, the same way people don’t love The Thing for its transformations. In both instances, the effects are only a part, and really the least important part of the movie’s appeal. A film with good effects and nothing else is not a good film. *cough* Avatar *cough*
What makes The Fly a beloved classic is that it’s a solid love story, well performed and well realized, with a tragic ending and memorable drama. And that’s what makes it sad as well. It’s why you care about Brundle and Veronica, why Brundle’s transformation is a tragedy, why seeing Brundlefly rant and rave nonsense is so heartbreaking. A beautiful love story that just happens to have some of the grossest practical effects of all time. An easy A+.
Well, that’s The Fly. I’d recommend checking it out, if you don’t have too weak a stomach. That concludes my month of horror, we’ll see what happens next. Goodbye for now!