Movie Project #23: The Fly [1986]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Fly [1986]

The Fly [1986]
Director: David Cronenberg
Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz
Runtime: 96 minutes

David Cronenberg’s The Fly starts off innocently enough as a simple sci-fi story. Jeff Goldblum is Seth Brundle, a reclusive scientist who meets journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a networking event. Brundle has been working feverishly on a scientific breakthrough and jumps at the opportunity to show off his work to a pretty lady. Veronica follows him to his home/lab, where she makes the stunning discovery that Seth has a set of “Telepods” — teleportation devices that can transport inanimate objects from one area to another.

Teleporting living creatures is still a work in progress, as his most recent attempt ended up with a baboon bloodily turned inside out. Somehow a spark ignites between Seth and Veronica, and they begin spending more time together. A romantic encounter reinvigorates Seth, and this leads to him figuring out a way to successfully transport living objects.

The Fly [1986]

One night, paranoid that Veronica is hooking back up with her former partner, Stathis Borans (John Getz), Seth gets drunk and decides to test his Telepods on himself — the very first human subject. The teleportation is successful, but there is one small problem (literally) with the test: there was a fly in the tube with Brundle.

It takes some time for the effects to kick in, but Brundle eventually begins turning into a fly. This is when the movie transforms itself from not just sci-fi but to full-blown horror as well.

The Fly [1986]

Parts of Brundle’s body begin falling off. His fingernails. His ears. He starts vomiting profusely. He develops the ability to cling to walls and ceilings. All of this is captured expertly by Cronenberg and his makeup crew, with some disgustingly impressive gore and so-called “body horror” effects. Seriously, this film has a reputation for its graphic special effects, and it does not disappoint at all in this regard. The Fly actually won an Oscar for Best Makeup, and it still holds up remarkably well today.

Underneath the horror and sci-fi elements is a tragic love story between Seth and Veronica, with Stathis finding himself entangled as well in the bizarre happenings. There is a surprising amount of depth to The Fly, and for those who can handle the excessive gore, there will be something for everyone to enjoy. Goldblum and Davis are fun to watch together, and the story, while familiar, is a good one. Chalk this one up as my favorite Cronenberg film so far.


38 thoughts on “Movie Project #23: The Fly [1986]

  1. ruth says:

    This movie is just sooo gross and heartbreaking!! It’s not something I can see more than once though. The sequel is terrible though, I guess they couldn’t capture what Cronenberg did.

    • Eric says:

      “Gross” and “heartbreaking” — not two words you would expect to hear in the same sentence! But you’re absolutely right.

      From what I’ve heard, Cronenberg has a script ready to go for some sort of sequel. He’s just waiting on the go-ahead from Fox. Curious to see what he has in mind for it.

        • Eric says:

          Yep, here is what Cronenberg said about it this year:

          “Well, I did talk to Fox, because my agent found out that they were approaching people to do a remake of my film. He sort of said, ‘Well, you know, what about David?’ And they said, ‘Well, we never thought of that!’ I think they’d been to Guillermo del Toro and Michael Bay. I said, ‘Long ago I proposed a sequel to Mel Brooks when he said he wanted to make a sequel.’ He didn’t like what I proposed because he said it wasn’t the same as the original movie. ‘A sequel,’ he said, ‘should be more of the same.’ And I said, ‘Well, Mel, then I’m not interested.’ And he went off and did his sequels (sic) and they had nothing to do with me and they weren’t very successful. But I still had this idea in mind – which no, I won’t tell you – and I said to Fox, ‘I’ll write that idea up because, as I think of it, it could be interesting.’ And they were excited about it enough to pay me to write a script. And then for various reasons it kind of got bogged down. I don’t know exactly why. It seems now that it’s not going to happen. But it’s a script that I like and would do. It’s not exactly a sequel, and it’s certainly not a remake. More a meditation (…) it involves teleportation.”[

  2. jsicktheslick says:

    I enjoyed this one too! I thought the make up on Goldblum were downright nasty (but in a good way). The movie really does a good job of grossing the audience out though. Glad to see that you enjoyed it!

  3. maroon5gurl88 says:

    This was one of the first Cronenberg films I’ve ever seen (yes I should have started with something…less gross). It’s amazing in terms of story and special effects although that arm snapping scene always makes me cringe!

    • Eric says:

      Haha yeah there were quite a few scenes that made me cringe as well. It’s interesting to look back at some of Cronenberg’s earlier work since I had only known him for his most recent movies (starting with A History of Violence). Quite the difference.

  4. TheBruce says:

    Few can top the run Cronenberg had in the 1980s, and THE FLY is one of his two best, along with VIDEODROME, in my opinion.

    Like most great (sci-fi) films, this one is far more layered than just the whole man-fly thing. Seriously, stupid fucking Academy would have been all over this if it didn’t feature man-into-fly stuff. It’s a tragicomedy worthy of the best playwrights. There are no real heroes, only three people caught into a series of events caused by accident, and of which they have no control over. One’s in love, one’s a victim of his own hubris and behavior, one’s curious. Plus it’s got, you know, man-into-fly stuff and blood and gore, because it’s awesome like that… And all of the rest of the classic Cronenberg trademarks. I’d go on for hours about this film but I oughtta stop now.

    Great film.

    • Eric says:

      Hi Bruce, thanks for commenting! Yeah, you’re absolutely right about this having so many layers. I went into this not knowing anything other than “the man-fly thing” and I was pleasantly surprised to see there was a lot more to it than that. Absolutely a great film, and I can’t wait to see more of Cronenberg’s 80s work.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks Nostra! I agree completely, and I think these types of films will hold up longer than anything that relies heavily on CGI. Eventually all computer animations will become dated, but nothing beats “the real thing.”

  5. sati says:

    Great write up! I think Goldblum’s performance in this one is one of the best from horror films. This one is not only a good movie but one of the very few that grossed me out.

    • Eric says:

      Thanks! Yeah, Goldblum was a lot of fun to watch especially when he began the transformation. Pretty gross but still hard to look away.

  6. CMrok93 says:

    Great review of a great film, Eric. I don’t really love Cronenberg but this is definitely his most human piece of work mainly due to Goldblum’s rare lead performance. Him and Davis are great together and you can totally feel that there is a love between each other even though he is turning into this hideous creature.

  7. Jaina says:

    These caps have reminded me just how gross The Fly was. It is a great reminder to us all that physical FX are a whole heap better than CG sometimes!

    • Eric says:

      Oh hell yeah. As I go back through some of these older movies, I am finding myself really digging their effects. Sometimes CG is just overrated.

      • Jaina says:

        I think back then the thought process that went into the FX in films was different. There was a real need to keep costs down, but keep the FX looking as realistic and ingenious as possible. Look at the likes of The Thing too – that will never not terrorise my nightmares.

  8. Alex Withrow says:

    Awesome review of THE Cronenberg film. This isn’t my favorite film he has directed, but it is the one that speaks best to his overall career. Love everything about it. Great review again!

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