For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.
Disturbing, body horror, tragic romance, mania, genius gone wrong and…well, insects. How could The Fly not be iconic?
My introduction to The Fly was when I first rented it on VHS from a local video store, and watched it with a friend. Suffice to say, the friend and I had drastically different reactions, but both are generally the kind one person would have watching this movie. It’s that repulsive but intriguing brand of filmmaking that David Cronenberg can do so well. I can’t act as if I’m immune to the obviously nauseating moments throughout this film, but- I also was amazed by how “good” this looked. By good I mean, believable, of course, because there is some truly unsettling imagery at large here. If I didn’t know Goldblum before watching this film (which I had) I may have very well thought he had become a fly. That was his fate. I believed it.
Weird Genius Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) has created a teleportation device. Right from the beginning of the movie, which spares no time introducing his creation and also the chemistry between him and journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis), we’re thrown headfirst into this madcap story, wondering if his invention is real, but also, wondering what they will be, but knowing, there will be consequences to it. Nothing this influential to mankind can come without them. Should humans interfere with such things or are we destined to a karmic/cosmic response when messing with such forces of nature? Sometimes these arrive in the tiny, pesky package of a fly.
An experiment gone very, very wrong.
Goldblum masters the mad scientist bit, right from the first scene when we meet him. Obsession and glory leads him to testing it on himself, and because one of our favorite (lie) buzzing houseguests one makes its way into the machine, things go… badly from there.
At first things seem hopeful, but it doesn’t take long for that to reveal itself as a facade; a misguided dream. Veronica and Seth begin a romance that seems sweet, but as his invention becomes more important, and soon, the effects of this decision more apparent (and visual) their love story turns tragic, and… scary. It’s a Beauty and the Beast sort of tale, except, with considerably more… eww.
He begins to deteriorate, and beware: it isn’t a pretty sight. The design/makeup team here leaves no disgusting part unturned. From the very first creepy thick-fly like hair to the eventual beastly end point, Brundle tries to reason with himself, and it’s clear that this isn’t only affecting his body, but his mind as well. He becomes impulsive, unstable, and The Fly becomes as much a psychological thriller as it does a horror/sci-fi.
In The Fly we watch the fervor transformation from man to monster with part curiosity and part terror. One shouldn’t deny that there are laughs to be had too, especially with how Goldblum delivers some lines, especially as he reports/journals his progress. However, part of the humor is wrapped up in the psychosis that threatens to overtake Seth as his humanity inches further way. So, even when we are smirking, it’s inevitably followed up by a wince.
This is David Cronenburg at his best. It’s messy, it’s discomforting, and it’s ultimately devastating, because the people involved aren’t ill-willed, but just innovative, and with Brundle, it is to his detriment.
It’s truly an amusing script too, by David Cronenberg and Charles Edward Pogue, that really relies on the characters and the space (which the film barely ever strays from). The journey is elaborate in scope, but internally, it’s a real head-trip. The performances will ensure sympathy and the effects to follow will curdle your stomach, but one thing you won’t do? Forget any of it.
The perfect sort of monsterpiece, as you will.