Oct. 12: The Fly (1986)
Canadian horror director David Cronenberg has always had a fascination with what he calls the '93New Flesh.'94 Many of his movies, from The Brood to Rabid and Existenz, are about bodily horror, taking as their subject matter some aspect of physical transformation. After all, what is more horrifying than when our own bodies rebel against us? What if our mind does as well? To explore those themes, Cronenberg turned to the schlocky '9250s film The Fly, remaking it into a masterful dissection of one man'92s transformation.
Jeff Goldblum plays Seth Brundle, a peculiar, brilliant scientist who is working on developing technology that can teleport matter from one place to another. At a party, he meets Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis), a journalist who is interested in writing about Brundle and his discoveries. Soon, the two become romantically involved as well.'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0'a0
After some initial disappointments, Brundle impulsively decides to test the pods himself, but a fly accidentally gets in with him, and the two emerge in the other pod fused into one organism. At first, Brundle only experiences the good effects of the transformation: increased energy and strength, being able to climb up walls and so forth. Soon, though, the changes become more pervasive, and Brundle finds himself slowly changing into the Brundlefly.
Being the scientist he is, Brundle is fascinated at first by the accident, even relishing a bit that he is now a totally unique life form. Once the ramifications of this, though, he is a little less enthusiastic. The movie has Oscar-winning makeup effects that depict Brundle'92s very slow transformation into a six-foot fly, and this transformation can be very'85gooky, let'92s say.
The movie can be quite scary, but it plays as more of a tragedy, as Brundle'92s mind changes along with his body ('93I'92m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it, but now the dream is over and the insect is awake.'94). As his humanity fades, Brundle realizes he is becoming a danger to Veronica, and tries desperately to reverse the accident.
As Brundle degrades, the film switches to Veronica'92s viewpoint as she has to watch her lover devolve into a monster. The performances in the film are terrific. Goldblum does an amazing job depicting Brundle'92s mental transformation in what is probably the best performance of his career, balancing his growing desperation with the gradual dissolution of his human mind, while his physical tics help sell the changes as well. Davis has the less showy role, basically just having to react in ever-growing horror, but she is really the emotional linchpin of the film.
Cronenberg shoots the film with an elegant style that contrasts interestingly with some of the horrific gore we see, but his real accomplishment is how he gradually ramps up the tension and the tragedy, building to a positively operatic conclusion. Indeed, Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore, who did the film'92s score, have recently adapted The Fly into an opera.
Everyone involved is at the top of their game here, and The Fly is one of the very best horror films of the 1980s, using Cronenberg'92s pet themes to give us a haunting horror story that works equally well as a human (or inhuman) tragedy and character study.
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'97'a0'a0'a0 Rabid (1977): Another film from Cronenberg depicting someone'92s body transforming against its owner'92s wishes, this one stars porn star Marilyn Chambers in her first legitimate role as a woman who undergoes experimental surgery to save her life after a motorcycle accident. Unfortunately, there'92s a side effect: She develops a taste for blood, and her victims turn into bloodthirsty, zombielike creatures.
'97'a0'a0'a0 Shivers (1975): More from Cronenberg, this one is a mean little flick that has the residents of a clean, modern high-rise apartment building becoming infected by a parasite that turns them into sex-crazed fiends driven to infect others.
'97'a0'a0'a0 The Brood (1979): Even more from Cronenberg, starring Oliver Reed in the story of a man who investigates the unconventional methods used by the psychiatrist treating his wife, and the band of murderous mutant midgets that seem to be connected to the psychiatrist somehow.