“I’m saying I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over and the insect is awake.”
“Be afraid. Be very afraid”
The Fly was written and directed by one of the early creators in the body horror genre, David Cronenberg. The film stars the legendary Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.
The movie focuses on the character of Seth Brundle (Goldblum), who is a brilliant scientist looking to “change the world”, as he put it, by creating a device that can teleport matter from one pod to the other.
While Brundle likes to keep to himself, he’s very enthusiastic to show journalist Veronica Quaife (Davis) his experiment after falling for her at a press event.
From there on, Brundle gets more and more risky with his teleportation, leading to a drunken night where he tries to teleport himself. He’s successful but unbeknownst to him, a fly enters the pod with him and the machine decides to fuse them at the molecular-genetic level, and so we have our monster movie.
However, this film is so much more than a monster movie. Cronenberg, magically, combines elements of horror, sci-fi and drama in a fast-paced ride that will have you feeling almost every emotion in the book. The screenplay, in terms of its pacing, is perfect. Each line of dialogue progresses the movie forward. There’s never time wasted nor do we ever sit on a scene too long, and I love that.
Goldblum, as always, brings the charm but this could very well be regarded as his best performance ever. Early on, he’s this shy, nerdy guy but he’s very eccentric and enthusiastic about his work. After he teleports and begins changing, he keeps that charm and likability but it is in a very off-putting way and Davis’ character essentially becomes the audience character in the sense that her reactions to him are the same ones we would have. You still like Brundle but you know something is up.
The whole third act becomes a tragedy as Brundle realizes what has happened to him. At first, he feels like a superhuman. He can do all of these miraculous physical feats but also does not get fatigued, and we see this through his rapid, confusing, elongated dialogue that is highly entertaining.
“You’re afraid to dive into the plasma pool, aren’t you? You’re afraid to be destroyed and recreated, aren’t you? I’ll bet you think that you woke me up about the flesh, don’t you? But you only know society’s straight line about the flesh. You can’t penetrate beyond society’s sick, gray, fear of the flesh. Drink deep, or taste not, the plasma spring! You see what I’m saying? And I’m not just talking about sex and penetration. I’m talking about penetration beyond the veil of the flesh! A deep penetrating dive into the plasma pool!”
My favorite line from this film happens around this time as well when Veronica keeps telling him that she doesn’t want to go through the pod: “If you’re too chickenshit to be in the dynamic duo club, then I’ll find somebody else who can keep up with me.”
There’s also great allusions to obsession. At first, Brundle says that the teleporter needs to become obsessed with flesh, which we then see later on in the film involving Brundle in some pretty disgusting imagery. I also have to give credit to the makeup artists. Everything you see with Brundle, aside from some of his physical stunts, is all practical. All the blood, gore and other horrific imagery all happens on-screen. Nothing is CGI.
One could also view this film as a metaphor for not trusting machinery and artificial intelligence. While the teleporter doesn’t intentionally put the fly in the pod with Brundle, it still crafted a decision on its own by fusion and that’s a really scary thought.
Before we even get to realizing Brundle is becoming a fly, we have Stathis Borans, played by John Getz. To Davis’ character, he is a pest in her life and is always swarming her like a fly would, bringing great annoyance. He’s also a “fly on the wall” as he stalks and follows Veronica wherever she goes. Also, trigger warning for all my journalists out there, Borans is the editor-in-chief of a magazine and runs a story that he gives himself credit for instead of Veronica, who is one of his writers.
The last point I want to make is the nods to the food chain and how we, as people at the top of the food chain, don’t have much respect for any creature below us. We don’t respect the powers we hold in that position, thus, why it makes it all the more horrific when we get a 185-pound fly in the form of Brundle — Brundlefly.
I loved every aspect of this film. It has something for everyone. Whether you love blood, horror, a good drama, or even some of the nerdy, scientific stuff involving Brundle and the teleporter, there is an aspect for everyone to enjoy. The score, by Howard Shore, is magically wondrous and incredibly underrated. Goldblum and Davis kill it with their chemistry and the pacing is as perfect as can be in this beautifully tragic film.
9 down, 22 to go.