Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Fly (1986) & The Fly II (1989)


Until last night, I don't think that I had ever actually sat down and watched David Croneneberg's The Fly from beginning to end. Mostly I've watched chunks of it on cable over the years, so I had seen the whole movie but not in a long time. So watching it to get in the mood for Eastern Promises seemed like a good idea.

The great thing about The Fly is that it isn't really a conventional monster movie. Yes, it has a creature that carries a pretty lady away into the night, but for most of the movie, the horror comes not from being afraid of the creature, but rather from the growing, insidious fear of watching someone we like turning into the creature. Or even more to the heart of the matter, Cronenberg makes us think of that dread that we all have of disease, decrepitude, dissolution. And as a result, the movie transcends the monster movie genre and becomes something closer to pure, classical tragedy.
The simple design helps: there are only three main characters, and almost every scene in the movie is a two-person dialogue scene between some combination of them, making for a very economical setup, with only a couple of scenes of action or gore (although when these happen, Cronenberg lets out all the stops). And it 's all done in such a dry, uninflected manner that the audience is lured in and convinced of the reality of these people in this otherwise crazy situation.

I especially love the key Cronenbergian moments where Jeff Goldblum regards his metamorphosis with a dry disconnection. One is the scene where we see that he's stuck various discarded body parts in his medicine cabinet, calling it the "Brundle Museum of Natural History". Another is the moment where he picks up a donut to eat in front of Geena Davis and vomits on it to begin his new digestion process. He hadn't given it a second thought, but seeing her reaction triggers him to say, apologetically, "That's disgusting." He's gotten used to his new way of doing things.

As for The Fly II, it's a sequel that basically rehashes the plot of the first one, except without much resonance or dramatic integrity but with the addition of a bunch of evil scientists for Eric Stoltz to get revenge against. The only really good or memorable thing about this movie are the scenes of the dank pit in which the scientists keep the freakish mutated results of their flawed teleportation experiments. That's good nightmare fodder. [Update: here's a picture of the freak pit.]

It's also the only movie I can think of where two characters have sex and one of them is five years old.

13 comments:

cjKennedy said...

Great Fly review.

"He's gotten used to his new way of doing things" Not only that, but for him, he's just become an extension of his own grand science project. He's not looking at himself as a man, he's a scientist studying an experiment.

And Goldblum has sort of made a career playing this character. Not that that's a bad thing. I love that character.

Great movie, great review. I can't speak of II, it's been stricken from my memory as a waste of space.

Jeff McMahon said...

Good point, although I do wish the movie made a little bit more of the panic that would be underlying his scientific detachment. But then, Cronenberg doesn't really do emotional outbursts.

frankboth said...

I'm slightly shocked that you hadn't seen it before.

It's very, very rare to see a performance like Goldblum's in a genre film, and it says a lot about Hollywood prejudices that he wasn't nominated for any major acting awards. This is one I re-watch every few years, like The Thing, Terminator, or Alien.

The 2-disc special edition is full of great features, and is definitely worth owning.

As for the sequel, that was one nice head-squishing.

cjKennedy said...

Frank, I don't think The Fly gets the same cred as Thing or Terminator or Alien, but it really should. I haven't seen it for a year or two...maybe I should for Halloween this year.

Jeff McMahon said...

No no, I've seen it several times before...just not in one sitting. Or if I have seen it in a single sitting, not in the last eight+ years.

frankbooth said...

This is not really related to the topic, but both deal with horror movies and I've been looking for someone appreciative to share this with: I just saw a great little '70s zombie movie called Let Sleeping Corpses lie. It's an Italian production shot in England by a Spanish director, and it actually scooped Dawn of the Dead as far as depicting zombie carnage in full bloody color (though it clearly couldn't have existed without NOTLD.)

Great atmospheric cinematography, halfway-decent acting, a couple of above-average set-piece attacks and one standout tasteless moment make it worth looking at if you're into that sort of thing. The undead make the coolest, creepiest noise I've heard from movie zombies--or real ones, for that matter.

Oh, and Arthur Kennedy!

Jeff McMahon said...

Thanks, I'll check that out. I'm hoping to make the last two weeks of this month a horror-thon. It certainly sounds more fun than Tombs of the Blind Dead.

Chuck Bowen said...

Nice review, and good point about Cronenberg's very sharp, economic storytelling. I adore The Fly, and I've always loved how the love story is just as important as the horror and how these threads compliment and enhance one another.

Jeff McMahon said...

Indeed, this movie represents the perfect fusion (get it?) of Cronenberg's sensibilities and thematic interests with a straight-forward, audience-friendly narrative framework.

frankbooth said...

Tombs of the Blind Dead has been on "to see" list for awhile now. Are you saying I might as well leave it there?

Jeff McMahon said...

Tombs of the Blind Dead and Return of the Blind Dead are both okay. They'll do if you're looking for a passable pre-Dawn of the Dead European zombie film (wow, I really am a horror nerd). But they're nothing special.

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I have watched this movies two times in my life , so I think that it is one of the best way to feel the adrenaline,and many others feelings.

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It was a perfect movie specially the first one, I know in that time the special effects were so bad but I remember that that fly looked so real and disgusting, it was the best part of the movie.