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81: THE FLY 
DIR: David Cronenberg
Why is it on the list?
Horror films in general, and David Cronenberg’s films in particular, are never actually about what they appear to be about. You CAN see The Fly as a (relatively) simple tale of a scientist (Jeff Goldblum) who, in his eagerness to test his teleportation machine, accidentally splices his DNA with that of a housefly, and finds himself metamorphosing. You could see Geena Davis’ role as just that of the girlfriend, and the gore of the middle and end parts of the films Cronenberg simply delivering the generic goods. You could see The Fly like that and have fun, but you’d be missing out on so much.
That’s the surface, where The Fly is most interesting is underneath all that. As ever with Cronenberg the subtext is the beating heart of the film. In taking on this remake job Cronenberg could easily have dumped all the intelligence and nuance of his previous films and, with the assistance of effects artist Chris Walas and his team, delivered an empty headed gorefest. Instead he goes the other way, producing one of his richest works. Some critics have suggested reading The Fly as a parable about womb fear; with Goldblum’s telepods as the surrogate incubators and the nightmarish sequence in which Geena Davis imagines herself giving birth to Goldbulm’s maggot offspring (delivered, significantly, by a cameoing Cronenberg) as the realisation of this nightmare. For me that’s valid, but this is clearly a film about disease. Cronenberg is clearly fascinated by disease, and he depicts Goldblum’s metamorphosis as a form of cancer, especially as it becomes more extreme, with all the new tissue on his body looking like a series of external tumours.
As well as being a deeply interesting and intelligent film, The Fly is an extremely well made one. The screenplay is unusually intelligent. Most remakes these days strip away themes, character and intellect from their originals, Cronenberg and co-writer Charles Edward Pogue add these elements. There’s also an almost perversely touching love story between Goldblum and Davis ( areal life couple at the time), in fact the film opened for valentines day 1987 in the UK.
Cronenberg’s direction is great, he balances humour and horror, sometimes in a single moment, with great assurance, he draws fine performances from his very small cast (there are only three major roles) and there are few directors who ever handled special effects so well. On a visual level the film is striking, particularly as the disease progresses and Goldblum’s Seth Brundle becomes more and more the fly. What’s interesting is how unlike a horror film most of the movie looks. Even as Brundle changes much of the film is a relatively brightly lit domestic comedy (aided by Jeff Goldblum’s great comic timing).
Funny and horrifying as the film can be (and Chris Walas’ effects certainly give the visceral horror of the last act a real impact) it’s also a rather sad film. In many ways the relationship between Goldblum’s Seth Brundle and Davis as journalist Veroica Quaife is the heart of the film. You find yourself rooting for these two slightly odd people who find each other, and then are divided by this terrible illness. It’s especially keenly felt at the end of the film. In any other film the moment the fly is destroyed would be one of triumph, here it’s one of devastation, thanks to strong work from Davis, and from Walas’ expressive animatronics.
The Fly is a strange cocktail of ingredients, but they are all high quality, and expertly mixed. It’s a film that grows ever more interesting the more you see it.
Life with Brundlefly
Seth introduces us to the ways in which he’s changed, showing us how he eats using something called ‘vomitdrop’, and introducing us to the Brundle museum of natural history.
The horrific sequence in which Veronica dreams she’s given birth to a maggot. Perhaps the film’s purest Cronenbergian moment.
The final, deeply sad, moments of the film.
Seth Brundle: What's there to take? The disease has just revealed its purpose. We don't have to worry about contagion anymore... I know what the disease wants.
Ronnie: What does the disease want?
Seth Brundle: It wants to... turn me into something else. That's not too terrible is it? Most people would give anything to be turned into something else.
Ronnie: Turned into what?
Seth Brundle: Whaddaya think? A fly. Am I becoming a hundred-and-eighty-five-pound fly? No, I'm becoming something that never existed before. I'm becoming... Brundlefly. Don't you think that's worth a Nobel Prize or two?
Seth Brundle: I'm saying... I'm saying I - I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over... and the insect is awake
Ronnie: If you *SAW* him, Stathis, if you saw how scared and angry and desperate he is...
Stathis Borans: I'm sure Typhoid Mary was a very nice person too when you saw her socially.
Seth Brundle: How does Brundlefly eat? Well, he found out the hard and painful way that he eats very much the way a fly eats. His teeth are now useless, because although he can chew up solid food, he can't digest them. Solid food hurts. So like a fly, Brundlefly breaks down solids with a corrosive enzyme, playfully called "vomit drop". He regurgitates on his food, it liquifies, and then he sucks it back up. Ready for a demonstration, kids? Here goes...
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UK: DVD / Blu-Ray
USA: 2 Disc DVD / Blu-Ray