Monster Monday Part 12: The Fly (1986)

Well, if you couldn't tell, another Monday is upon us.  Excited? I know you are. And you SHOULD be! Why? Because today I'll be looking at the superbly crafted Cronenberg masterpiece "THE FLY" from 1986!  

Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis

The Plot:

Seth Brundle, a brilliant but eccentric scientist, attempts to woo investigative journalist Veronica Quaife by offering her a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment have proved successful. Brundle thinks he has ironed out the last problem when he successfully transports a living creature, but when he attempts to teleport himself, a fly enters one of the transmission booths. Soon after, Seth slowly begins noticing strange bodily changes. Thereafter, these changes begin to progress rapidly, as Seth's former self gradually shifts into something much more monstrous. - IMDb

The Monster:


The Fly is a remake of the classic film of the same name from 1958. Any fan of horror (or of cinema in general) will be well aware of the constant disdain that the word "remake" often manifests in cinephiles. Indeed, there may be nothing that cinema fans like to complain about more than remakes. I, on the other hand, have always attempted to reserve judgment for remakes and, in general, am mostly ambivalent (or apathetic) about them. This is the case for several reasons, which I plan to write about in detail sometime in the future.

One reason which is relevant to the topic at hand, however, is that sometimes remakes work. Sometimes, in fact, they work really well. This couldn't be more evident than with this Monster Monday selection. Improving in almost all ways over the original, The Fly is the perfect example of how to do a remake optimally and respectably. The movie is so good, that I often find myself reminding anti-remakers of its existence. It of course goes without saying that, in response, any reasonable person could name off a dozen of other remakes which happen to be terrible; however, it only needs to be shown that remakes can be fantastic, at least in some cases, and The Fly does just that.

The Transformation

One interesting thing to note about the Fly in comparison to previous Monster Monday selections is that this is the first movie in which a Monster came to fruition through a human transformation. That is, the monster never existed isolated from an individual but rather came to be only through the gradual mutation of a host. (On second thought, I suppose this was the case with C.H.U.D.; however, we never actually got to see any sort of transformation and only knew the creatures as isolated from their former human selves, so we'll say it's different enough). This makes The Fly interesting for a number of reasons, but mostly because we get to see precisely the genesis and progression of the monster into its full form. This allows the audience to initially come to identify with Seth (Goldblum) and his very humanistic qualities, and watch step by step as the fly gradually begins to manifest itself more prominently, creating a sort of bifurcation or duality of man and beast. This is fascinating mostly because there's never a point where the humanistic element becomes completely obsolete: even in the final moments of the film, where the full transition has taken place, we're left with a few heart-shattering scenes where it's made clear that, in fact, there is a part of Seth buried deep within the grotesque and monstrous exterior.

Those feels...

The entire transformation, therefore, is truly what makes The Fly so special... And not solely from an aesthetic/visual perspective. Although the makeup and prosthetics were flawlessly implemented and played a vital role in the overall transformation, Golbum's performance and the development of his relationship with other characters in the movie were equally as important in establishing the eventual dichotomy of man/beast that we eventually are presented with once the teleportation occurs.

 4 1/2 Scars

4 1/2 Scars

And, as much as I go on about my obsession with the cheesy and comical side of 80s horror, The Fly manages to avoid ever seeming cheesy, despite the overt absurdity of its premise. If someone were to tell you, without you having any prior knowledge of the reality of the movie, that you were about to watch a film from 86' where a guy turns into a fly, what sort of reaction would you have? Surely, you wouldn't imagine that you'd be getting something as substantial and emotionally affective as The Fly. This, I think, is what makes the movie so special and, additionally, is a testament to Cronenberg's skill. The film manages to create some of most memorable scenes and images in 80s horror while simultaneously clinging firmly to its humanistic element, manifesting something revolting, moving and unforgettable. Truly one of the unique masterpieces of 80s horror, The Fly is one of the best remakes ever (and arguably one of the best horror movies of all time) and continues to age well while disgusting and influencing contemporary generations. You know you've made something important when The Simpsons devotes an entire segment to satirizing you.