The Fly (1986) Review

The Fly (1986) For those interested in dipping their toes into the realm of science fiction horror, the 1986 movie The Fly is the perfect introduction. Another film with the same name came out in 1958, so the 1986 movie The Fly is a remake. Written and directed by David Cronenberg, The Fly is based on the short story by George Langelaan. It’s about a scientific genius, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), who transforms into a mutant fly. When it comes to body horror, Cronenberg delivers in spades. The practical effects and prosthetics are just as disgusting as those seen in movies like Scanners (1981) and The Thing (1982). Squeamish people beware, The Fly can empty the stomach of anyone not accustomed to hyper-realistic creature features.

For Millennials like myself, Goldblum is recognized for his role in the 1996 movie Independence Day and the Jurassic Park franchise. In The Fly, Goldblum is portrayed as an unconventional scientist with a peculiar personality. He meets a journalist named Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a networking event and becomes smitten. In addition, she shares his sense of curiosity and wonders about scientific discovery. However, Veronica is unaware of how ambitious and reckless Brundle is. There’s a saying, “One should not mix business with pleasure.” This is a cautionary tale of how true that statement is. Brundle has good intentions to change the world with his invention. The experiments he subjects himself to are dangerous with horrendous consequences.

A handsome, shirtless man holding a baboon in front of a large machine.

Most of the story plays out in a sequence of montages. Brundle and Veronica spend a significant amount of time together. Veronica documents the experiments Brundle conducts and serves as his lab partner. Remember that she is still a scientific journalist with a boss she reports to, Stathis Borans (John Getz). This is a conflict of interest as the two of them have a complicated history. Brundle grows impatient with the progress of his work. He starts with animal trials, then moves on to human trials, using himself as a test subject. First, the results are positive. Brundle develops enhanced human abilities. However, these newfound talents come at a price: his brilliant mind.

A nude man crouches inside of a pod-shaped teleportation machine with a see-through door.

Brundle turns into a douchebag, more or less. The altruistic vision for the technology he created is now driven by personal gain. It’s a descent into madness that makes viewers feel like a fly on the wall. His persona shifts from kind and brilliant to erratic. As the self-induced trials continue, Brundle begins to care less about Veronica. This is where Geena Davis gets the spotlight, showing how heartbroken she is. The relationship’s impact on her personal and professional career is shown in great depth. I’m not sure how much time passes at this point, as events happen more quickly. Brundle, who is living in seclusion when he and Veronica meet, no longer leaves his lab.

A man and woman kiss passionately inside a studio apartment. Both are half-dressed and covered in a sheet.

The 1986 movie The Fly is similar to a short story in its format. Short stories tend to have no more than two to three characters. In this case, that is Seth Brundle, Veronica, and her editor, Stathis. The relationship between these characters is the connective tissue of the subplot. Stathis is the model of the man Brundle wishes to be; powerful, respected, and wealthy. After experimenting on himself multiple times, Brundle gains super-human strength, endurance, and speed. One day, a common housefly enters a machine and is merged with Brundle’s DNA, hence the movie’s name.

A hideously deformed man stands next to a woman who looks concerned.

Don’t get me started on what the final form looks like. A lot can be learned from watching The Fly. One of them is don’t try to be something you’re not because your core values are lost in the process. This message is personified in the most literal sense. Brundle develops a machine, a piece of advanced technology to speed up human evolution. At no point did he consider his soul, morality, or mental health. Without those things, humans are no more than beasts, mindless creatures with basic, primal needs. As Brundle unifies with the fly, he addresses himself in the third person as “BrundleFly.”

A monstrous humanoid creature with bulbous eyes and wrinkled, slimy skin.

Things only worsen from here. A simple Google search on the anatomy and characteristics of a fly produces all the information one needs to understand how bad this is. Brundle undergoes a metamorphosis unlike anything seen on the big screen. So much so, it is on countless lists for the best special effects makeup and design. I’ve seen films so graphic they require an NC-17 rating or higher. The Fly has an R-rating, and for a good reason. Yet, the sequence in which Brundle consumes breakfast still makes me uncomfortable. A pang of sadness is associated with Brundle’s physiological breakdown. He looks like an irritated hemorrhoid covered in cactus spikes.

A mutant fly with black bulbous eyes, elongated claws, and exposed muscle tissue.

Lots of disturbing imagery to partake in. A fair bit of action as well. The whole movie isn’t doom and gloom; there are some romantic moments with sprinkles of humor. The narrative spans three genres; drama, horror, and science fiction. The 1986 movie The Fly boasts a memorable score that fits the unnerving tone. The runtime is an hour and thirty-six minutes of body horror and creative filmmaking. A movie about a human and insect hybrid is an example of the diverse storytelling that is possible. The Fly is celebrated for its visual accomplishments in the industry. I recommend it to anyone who wants a thrill or scare. The Fly gets an 8.5 out of 10.

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