Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Fly (1986)

If I were to list my preferred movie genres in order, from most favorite to least favorite, it'd go something like this: 1. Horror, 2. Sci-Fi, 3. Comic Book Films, 4. Action, and 5. Drama.  Sometimes, when films feature mixed genres, my favorite of that category would be Horror/Sci-Fi.  Films like Alien, The Thing, and Pitch Black are films that I love to sit and watch constantly.  Not only are we given futuristic or alien concepts, but something horrific and terrifying as well.  It's the best of both worlds, in my opinion.

In 1986, we were given another one of those types of films, a modern take and remake of a 1958 film, called, The Fly.  But unlike the previous film, this new flick, directed by David Cronenberg, was frighteningly gruesome, holding nothing back as it showed a more realistic story of a scientist who becomes a hybrid of a man and fly.

The film begins with a journalist, Veronica "Ronnie" Quaife (Geena Davis), meeting an eccentric scientist named Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) at an event held by the company that funds Brundle's work.  He tells her that he invented telepods to teleport objects from one location to another.  Veronica goes back to Brundle's loft and witnesses her stocking instantaneously transport from one telepod to another.  Wanting to publish a story about it, Brundle balks, but agrees to her documenting the story as he hasn't figured out how
to teleport living organisms, having disastrous results when trying.  Along the way, the two fall for each other and start a romance.  On one particular night, after solving the flesh issue and feeling rejected by Veronica, Brundle becomes inebriated and decides to go through the telepods himself.  As he does, however, he doesn't notice a common housefly enter the pod with him.  He teleports himself with the fly and the computer, not programmed to separate the two, teleport them to the waiting pod with their DNA combined.  Though Brundle feels invigorated and believes he has revitalized himself, he and Veronica soon realize he is something much worse.

Going to see this movie in a theater back then, I remember thinking we were going to get the half-man-half-fly manifestation that so many of us might know from seeing the original movie.  Even though I knew that image back then, it wasn't until 25 years later when I decided to rent the Vincent Price original and give it a gander.  But what Cronenberg gave us in 1986 was so awesomely and outrageously grotesque, I was a giddy teenager wanting more and more as the movie progressed-Cronenberg didn't disappoint.  He didn't give us the man with an insect arm and fly head like the 50s version, but instead something much more stomach-turning.  You have everything from acne to thick insect hair growing on Brundle's back, you see his teeth fall out, you see his fingernails come off with a bunch of pus leaking out of their place, there's body deformity, extra limbs...and that's not even the grossest parts!  Cronenberg is definitely known for his films that feature distortions of the body and he goes full force in The Fly.

I'll say right now that I love Jeff Goldblum in anything he does.  He definitely has the look and ramblings of a mad scientist, at the same time coming across as a genius.  Going from his humble beginning in this film as a soft-spoken, yet nerdy, scientist, to the stark raving asshole he becomes after ascending through the telepods; he certainly has range here.  You, as an audience, unquestionably go from liking his character to despising him, and then feeling sorry for him near the end.

As for Geena Davis, I had my reservations-and still do-about her performance in this film.  I've never felt that she was a great actress and didn't think she pulled off that good of a performance in this movie.  As the story progresses, however, she sort of grows on you and I was able to get over my misgivings that I had for her in
the beginning.  If anything at all, the final climatic scene in this was pretty good and I found myself asking why she didn't give this climactic performance throughout.  Above all else, Davis and Goldblum had good chemistry together in the film, giving this film the believability it deserves.

Now, the special effects are understandably the showstoppers of this flick, as most of it is applied make-up, some of it puppeteering work, but all practical.  From the inexplicit beginnings where we just see blemishes on the skin of Goldblum's character to the heavy layers of latex as he's created into something that is incomprehensible.   Instead of going the route of having Brundle start to resemble a fly right away, he begins to look deformed and oncogenic, but later losing that exterior to something much more hideous.  The metamorphosis he goes through is scary and sickening...definitely not a film to eat lunch or dinner while watching.

Not many actors are featured in this film, as it's mainly the story between Seth Brundle and Veronica Quaife.  But there is one other character, Stathis Borans (John Getz), who's introduced early on to present a love triangle aspect of the story.  At first, we think he's a douche bag as we see him in Veronica's apartment, taking a shower, making it pretty clear that they've had a relationship in the past that's gone sour recently.   Then he's seen as a jealous dick, following her to Brundle's building and to the clothing store where he confronts her.  Borans is then seen in a new light as being (or trying to be) the hero at the end of the film.  When looking back at the film as a whole, it's funny how that character development comes to be.  It's especially interesting when we see that as Brundle begins to become the villain, Borans turns into the hero; it's a wonderful character study.

Above all else, the story is a love-story-turned-tragedy, and you can't help but feel the emotion at the end of the film.  It's probably Geena Davis's best performance (just the ending here) I've ever seen her give, not to mention the best passionate scenes Cronenberg has ever captured in one of his movies.

So, what's my final "bit" on The Fly?

Certainly a more modern take on the 1958 version, with some interesting concepts brought to life a little more realistically.  The film keeps you mesmerized with the notion of teleportation and all the scientific aspects along with it.  Though the technology featured in this film is very outdated (the computers especially), it's easy to get past it and get right into the film.  The gore and grotesque hit you in the face for most of the running time, while at the same time you're captivated and waiting to see what happens as the main character goes through changes both scary and fascinating.  You can't take your eyes off of it and you'll go through some emotions while watching.  If you haven't seen it, don't wait any longer.

Thanks for reading and I welcome any comments!

You can also tweet to me on Twitter: @CinemaBits.

No comments: