Spoilers will get the bug spray.
This one might as well be the classic jewel in David Cronenberg‘s crown of horror films. The movie’s classic line of “Be afraid, be very afraid” makes no apologies about what’s going to befell the main character. With excellent practical effects and great performances by the two leads, there’s no doubt this is a must see. Now, the film… Okey I gotta save something for the actual review but if you’ve missed this one, this one is a classic in both senses. Audiences now might feel it predictable, and technically it’s a remake of an older classic but a lot of things were first done here and were later borrowed. Nostalgia lenses are recommended but not mandatory.
The Fly (1986) was directed by David Cronenberg who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Edward Pogue. The short story is by George Langelaan. Journalist Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife (Geena Davis) meets eccentric scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) at a company event. Modestly funded, Seth has managed to make radical advances in the disintegration and re-integration of matter through electronic transfer – teleportation. Seth presents his project to Ronnie in a very awkward attempt to court her romantically. Then he realizes she’s a journalist and tries to dissuade her from making his invention public as he doesn’t believe the telepods are ready yet.
This becomes blatantly obvious when Seth attempts to teleport a live baboon, only to have catastrophic results. As he becomes involved with Ronnie, he realizes he must teach the computer -and himself- how flesh is put together. Meanwhile Ronnie has to continuously turn down the advances of her former boyfriend Stathis Borans (John Getz), which proves harder as he’s the chief editor of the magazine where she works.
After a few adjustments, Seth has a successful run teleporting a second baboon. Celebrations are in order, but Ronnie realizes Stathis has sent over a sample magazine cover with Seth’s depiction on it hoping to capitalize on this discovery himself. Furious, Ronnie leaves to deal with Stathis leaving Seth to ponder what happened. Thinking she’s still got something with Stathis, Seth gets drunk and in an impulsive moment decides to try the machine on himself. As the telepod closes and locks, we see he’s got company inside the pod where an intrusive fly has managed to get in.
The effects as Seth commences an inexorable transformation into something else, are all practical and very believable thanks to selected shots, dim lighting and the right atmosphere. The technology is sparse but without unnecessary transparent screens or holographic projections. The telepods, with their hive-looking theme, still look ominous and scary. There are a few minute things that might require your nostalgia glasses, but otherwise the movie does hold up. Perhaps my only outright over-the-top moment is Ronnie’s dream sequence which lasts a few scenes too long.
Strongly recommended for both new and old fans of horror. It’s a mid-tier classic with a lot of character development. It’s not really a slow burn, it does keep you entertained and expecting the very worst, but some might think the actual horror doesn’t start until we see what we came to see. That’s not it. You can tell the horror from the point we see Seth’s invention working and all the implications of what could happen come to mind. This is why I think this film would still work for modern audiences as long as they’re not just here for the effects. Practical effects here at their very top of their game, both horrific and fascinating.
That will do for now.