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.