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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day 238: The Fly

The Fly
Got you where I want you

Not all remakes are created solely to make money off a well-known movie. Some are created in order to elevate an original to new heights through better special effects, modern storytelling, and better acting. John Carpenter's The Thing is a prime example. Most people are unaware that The Thing is a remake, one of the highest compliments you can give to a remake. David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly, while sharing the basic premise of the original 1958 film of the same name, is really it's own movie. Beyond the basic premise of a scientist accidentally merging with a housefly during a teleportation experiment, this version of The Fly goes way beyond the original with effects and horror. The real question is if it is equal or better than the original. (Incidentally, The Fly's "Got You Where I Want You" has been in my head all day)

The Fly is a 1986 horror sci-fi remake co-written and directed by David Cronenberg (Videodrome, Scanners). The movie stars Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independence Day) as brilliant, but eccentric scientist Seth Brundle. Seth invites Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife (Geena Davis, A League Of Their Own, The Long Kiss Good Night), a journalist for Particle magazine to his warehouse lab/apartment to see his new invention. Seth touts it as an invention that will change the world as they know it. His new invention is a set of “Telepods” which allow instantaneous teleportation of inanimate objects. Seth demonstrates his invention by teleporting one of Ronnie's stockings. When she starts recording Seth, he becomes nervous and agitated because he is not ready to unveil his invention to the world. The telepods are not complete as they are unable to transport living matter. When Ronnie takes the story to her editor and ex-boyfriend, Stathis Borans (John Getz, Blood Simple, Zodiac) rejects the idea as a magic trick. Ronnie soon begins a romantic relationship with Seth, much to the displeasure of Stathis. One night, Seth has a breakthrough, transporting a piece of steak through the telepods. Following his breakthrough, Seth becomes worried that Ronnie is secretly seeing Stathis again. Drunk and jealous, Seth sends himself through the transport. Unknown to him, a housefly is inside the telepods when he transports himself. Everything appears normal at first, but Seth begins to exhibit what appears to be beneficial enhancements: strength, durability, and energy. He believes that the telepod has given him a new rebirth, stripping away his flaws and faults. He soon becomes angry and violent, though, breaking a man's arm at a bar and cheating on Ronnie. Seth allows begins to grow coarse hair and his face begins to change, finally realizing that something is wrong when his fingernails begin to fall off. Checking his computer, Seth learns that he has in fact been genetically combined with a housefly. His body continues to change and mutate, causing body parts to fall off and forcing Seth to vomit on his food in order to break it down for his body to consume. Is there any way for Ronnie to help save Seth before he completely turns into a monster and what will she do now that she has learned that she is pregnant with his baby?

Oh, God! It's hideous!

The original 1958 version of The Fly is regarded as a science-fiction classic. People who have never seen the movie still know the classic “Help me! Help me!” line squeaked out by the main character about to be devoured by a spider. It's a pretty chilling scene over 50 years later. The 1986 version of The Fly has the distinctive Cronenberg flair of commonly known as “body horror”. Seth's deformed transformation is the main attraction of the film as Jeff Goldblum becomes a disgusting mass of flesh and insect. Much like in Cronenberg's other film “Videodrome,” the special effects used in the movie to transform the main character are fantastic. Seth's various mutations are hard to look at, yet we cannot turn away.. It helps that Jeff Goldblum is already bug-eyed and his 80's-style mullet helps convey his awkwardness. The makeup, done by Chris Walas, Inc. received an Academy Award for their word and deservedly so. The transformation goes through various stages, first subtle and then horrific, but each stage is believable.

The story is surprising simple as I was expecting something more complex like some of Cronenberg's other films. There is more suspense than action, but the movie is still interesting and compelling. The scares are still prevalent throughout, with more psychological fear than quick jolts and startles. Seth's transformation begins rather quickly as most of the movie is about his mutation. The entire transformation can be seen as an allegory for cancer or any disease for that matter. We are all afraid of uncontrollable change and death which makes the film all the more unsettling. The love story is classic romantic tragedy as both characters love each other until the inevitable end. The dream sequence where Ronnie gives birth to a giant larva is quite terrifying and could give nightmares to expecting mothers. Jeff Goldblum is perfect for the role of Seth Brundle as his quite awkwardness fits the character like a glove. Geena Davis is good as both the love-interest and as the audience's avatar. We, the audience, are sharing the same feelings as Ronnie, wanting to help Seth, but also worried about the baby growing inside her.

Who ordered the large Meatlover's with extra Goldblum pizza?

The Fly is able to take the original movie's idea and make it into something greater. The movie has a good mixture of both science-fiction and horror which play off each other well. The movie's dark tone and atmosphere makes the hideously wonderful transformations even scarier. The special effects and makeup are superb and the solid acting of Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis help make for a solid movie. David Cronenberg leaves his unique mark on the film with his usual brand of horror. The story is good, though I was expecting greatness. Maybe that's because I've seen The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror VIII: Fly vs. Fly” episode so many times. Regardless, The Fly is still a fun and unsettling watch that does the original justice while still being it's own movie.


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