Friday, February 3, 2012

Film Review: The Fly (1986)

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Jeff Goldblum
Geena David

Synopsis: A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

My thoughts: Tom has been trying to get me to watch The Fly since we started dating, almost three years ago. It's not that I didn't want to watch it, or that I had any aversion to it, but it seemed like the only times he suggested we watch it was at 2am, or when I was in a funk. Finally, we managed to sit down and watch it together, and now I'm kicking myself for waiting for so long!

Jeff Goldblum plays Seth Brundle, an eccentric scientist who has dedicated his time to creating transporter pods. Unfortunately for him, while they transfer non-biological items (seemingly) fine, whenever a living creature is placed inside, they get fucked up, turned inside out, and all that gorey good stuff. While he tries to work out the kinks, Seth meets Veronica Quaife (played by Geena Davis), a beautiful journalist looking for a scoop. Sparks fly, they kiss, they fall in love and Seth keeps trying to sort out his machines. After determining that it should be fine if tested on human subjects, Seth jumps in to see if they'll work. Unbeknownst to him, however, a wee little fly flew into the machine, converting it from a transporter pod into a gene-splicing pod that recodes Seth's DNA with fly DNA. Seth notices no difference, except that his speed, strength and agility seem to have jumped from non-existent to borderline super-hero. Though he thinks it's all due to the disintegration of his body and reassembly of the broken down bits, Veronica starts to notice the smaller differences that he misses or ignores. As Veronica gets more and more nervous, Seth becomes more cocky and obnoxious about his masterpiece machine, ignoring the creeping on symptoms that things are less than OK.

Things begin to spiral very quickly after Veronica decides to leave Seth. Seth transforms from high-functioning human to hybrid creature almost overnight, and each time we see him he appears less human, less well, and more disgusting. As much as I enjoyed the movie as a whole, and the story that was told, it was these transformation scenes which captivated me most. I'm very vocal when it comes to the benefits of physical special effects over computer generated effects, and this film is a firm example of that. From the inside out monkey, to Brundle-fly's gradual transformation, the effects were far more tangible, more tactile (even on the screen) and played a much larger role that CGI ever does. When Veronica returns later to see Seth, the disgust and sadness on her face is far more effective because she is actually seeing Jeff Goldblum transformed and inhuman in front of her, rather than just gazing at a man covered in ping pong balls in front of a green screen. It's just far more effective, and the detailing always seems so much more disgusting and complex and realistic when the SFX are physical.

I loved this film, I thought the love story developed between Veronica and Seth was fantastic, I loved Seth's greedy obsession with his project and his refusal to accept the consequences. I loved the SFX, and the costumes (Oh 1980s, you are good for a giggle), and Seth/Brundlefly during the final 20 minutes. I loved the self-reflection, the concern over scientific experimentation, the drawing of a line in the sand. David Cronenberg created a film that'll remain as troubling and as effective for another 25 years, and doubtless years after that. A true modern horror classic.

4.5 out of 5 Brundle-flies.