We all know David Cronenberg is the man, with mind-bending hits like Videodrome, Scanners, The Brood, Crash, Shivers… the list just goes on and on. The Fly is one of his more commercial favorites and the one that scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. It was weird, as horrified as I was, I couldn’t stop watching. I watched this one over and over as a kid, constantly re-renting it from the local blockbuster. This film is actually a remake of a 1958 film. Cronenberg’s version is the one to watch though. Cronenberg is the master of body-horror and The Fly is body-horror at its finest.
Most of us know the story. Seth Brundle is a scientist who invents a teleportation machine, transferring inanimate objects from one pod in his lab to another – disintegrating in one and reintegrating in another. He shows his lab and his experiments to beautiful Veronica, not knowing that she is a journalist. He doesn’t want the story out, it’s not ready yet. Seth makes a deal with her – if she doesn’t leak his story, he will let her follow his day to day activities to write a book. Veronica and Seth begin spending more and more time together, which eventually turns into a physical relationship. He begins using live animals in his project, but it is not enough, he wants to go in there himself. A fly goes into the pod with Brundle, unbeknownst to him, and Brundle slowly begins to change and morph into the Brundlefly!
Not only did the movie terrify me as a child, but Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle/Brundlefly) was like the boogeyman to me. Even when I would watch Jurassic Park, all I could think about was damn Brundlefly. But let’s be honest, Brundle is creepy even before he turns into a fly. He really is the perfect fit for a role like this, with his naturally buggish eyes and lanky body. It’s really hard to imagine anyone else playing this role. As much as I love and respect this movie, it would be pretty cool to see a remake if it is done right, maybe even if Cronenberg did it himself like Michael Haneke did with Funny Games.
Jeff Goldblum’s role is exponentially elevated with the Academy Award winning best makeup. It starts with his nails and ears falling off, puss, growths, and weird hair and metamorphoses into a full-blown fly- climbing on the walls with sticky hands and expelling ooey-gooey fly vomit – all very cringe-worthy body mutations. This makeup is brought to life with Goldblum’s performance of heightened senses, quicker reflexes, stronger muscle agility, and increased agitation and need for sugar. The transformation is entirely hideous and nauseating.
Body-horror is not unique to the horror genre. It has been done many times before with films like Alien, Cabin Fever, Hellraiser, The Human Centipede, Tusk, American Mary, Taxidermia, and many more. Body-horror is often imitated but never duplicated like The Fly, which is the ultimate genre-defining film. A perfect mesh of science fiction, horror, and body mutation.
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