Movie Review #33 / 250 : ‘THE FLY’ (1986)

Bzzzzzzt.  Bzzzzzzzt.  Bzzzzzz-

Enough of that.  That’s very, very annoying.  What is it with me picking horror films just recently?  I’ve sat through a bumload of zombies trying to pick off a score of terrible actors, Kurt Russell battling a metamorphosising beastie in the arctic, and a creepy Dennis Hopper lecherously grunting through an oxygen mask – all in the past week or so.  Believe me – inside, I’m screaming for The Care Bears Movie or something similarly saccharine, if only to cauterise this rather depressing run of flicks – but, hey.  I’m a masochist.  So, I’ve decided my next pick to be the David Cronenburg-helmed rom-horror The Fly, where Jeff Goldblum goes nutty and nude, and often.

This, like The Thing, is another 1980s re-imagining of an arcane and rather cheesy horror classic.  Hermit scientist Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is on the verge of a breakthrough in the creation of a pioneering teleportation device, and lucky (ironic sting) journalist Veronica (Geena Davis) is the first person to witness the experiment outside of his own fidgety eyes.  Brundle makes Veronica a deal where he offers her an exclusive insight into the development of the machine, and as a result, the unlikely pair grow ever-closer as the machine becomes truly brilliant.  However, one fateful night, Brundle sticks himself in the machine, hoping to teleport human tissue for the first time.  What he doesn’t bank on is a solitary housefly creeping into the machine with him… and the dung only hits the fan from there, friends. Oh, yes.

The Fly makes The Thing look like Winnie the Sodding Pooh.  There’s more rubbery 80s horror meat flying out of orifices and across set floors than you can fill a butcher’s window with.  So, naturally, gore aficionados are immediately satisfied.  As previously discussed, I’m not hugely into visceral horror, but what’s here, considering the time period, is spectacularly grisly – and twenty-six years on, still makes you grimace.  The final ten minutes are especially hard to watch if you’re weak of stomach, but this is barely scratching the surface.

This is a love story, essentially.  This is a story with a maximum of three characters that appear regularly, and that’s as many as it needs.  While it’s wrapped in a shell of horror / sci-fi, this is a story about the relationship of Brundle and Veronica evolving across the surreal events that the former’s experiments bring forth – and it’s marvellously tight.  This is a really concise, essentials-only script that neglects to pad with irrelevant side-stories and characters, long unnecessary pauses and reams of back-and-forth-exposition.  For example : we get to see the teleporter within the first ten minutes of the film.  Nowadays, you’d be lucky to see it by the second half.  Thanks to the brilliant pacing and believable characters, you actually care about these characters.  And while the effects and so forth may be blatant or deridable now, you don’t care.  This is as much a psychological horror, about the loss of one’s mental faculties and control, as it is about… the grisly bits I was on about earlier.  Goldblum is actually a pretty big revelation here – he’s versatile enough to display two ends of the sanity spectrum, and all of the gradual processes inbetween.  Some of Davis’ moments, especially her frightened scenes, are particularly B-Movie, but hey – you won’t care.  The dream sequence is particularly harrowing enough to forgive over-acting – and by dream sequence, those of you in the know will get what I’m on about.  The maggot.  Yuck.  No spoilers!  See?

As a film, it’s a simple story (one that would work perfectly on stage, sans effects).  It’s brilliantly told, expertly paced, and the effects are still repulsive.  Some of the acting is suspect, but a lot of it’s forgivable.  The ending is necessarily horrible, but perhaps a little abrupt – can’t really put my finger on it.  There’s also far too much nude Goldblumming for one to stomach in one sitting, but that’s all down to preference, I guess.  It’s a scary, scary film.  It’s also brilliant fun.

PROS : Great story, great pacing, brilliantly directed.  Brilliantly ‘low-fi’.

CONS : Geena Davis… is a bit crap.  I’m sorry.  Some will find the effects laughable.  However, it all depends how invested you are in the story and the characters.  If you get deep enough, you won’t care.

OVERALL : 9.5/10.  I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did.  But then, I didn’t really know what to expect.  Am I cheating by giving a .5?  Deal with it.


One response to “Movie Review #33 / 250 : ‘THE FLY’ (1986)

  1. Pingback: Movie Review #40 / 250 : ‘VIDEODROME’ | Graham The Cat

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