Dir: David Cronenberg, 1986
By and large, remakes are seldom successful. Often seen as sullying the brilliance of the original, they are also viewed as needless and evidence of Hollywood running out of ideas.
The Fly, however, was a different kettle of fish.
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist working on teleportation.
Believing he has perfected it, Brundle uses himself as a guinea pig and successfully teleports himself from one pod to another.
But, the scientist was unaware that a fly had made its way into the pod at the time of teleportation.
This mixes the fly’s molecular structure with his own and Brundle soon begins to exhibit signs of transforming into a fly.
Based on a 1957 short story, 1958’s The Fly had rather primitive technicals. The human/fly hybrid, consists of a man with the head of a fly in place of his own, which is spent covered up for most of the film.
Like John Carpenter’s The Thing, instead of being a remake of an earlier film, it was a new adaptation of an old story. In this context, it’s entirely fair to categorise the 1958 movie and Cronenberg’s version as two entirely different entities. Comparing the two is unfair to each respective director.
Of course, by 1986, special effects had progressed enormously and allowed Cronenberg to do justice to the original prose.
Chris Walas’s makeup of the Brundlefly, is superb and still holds up, thirty years later. The gradual transformation from human into fly, is a frightening and sickening display of talents. In many ways, it’s the effects that are the star.
Goldblum, puts in one of his best (if not THE best) performances of his career. Twitching and flicking, the ridiculously tall actor does a fine job in his role as the insect infected scientist, perfectly capturing the tics of a fly.
But, that’s where the praise stops. Geena Davis is forgettable as reporter, Veronica. Following Brundle around for an article she’s writing, Veronica is witness to the slow and painful obliteration of Brundle, and the emergence of murderous creature. That’s plenty of material for Davis to work with, but she still can’t bring the character to life.
Director Cronenberg, realises that the display of effects and makeup are the best thing in the film and, so, allows the team to do their work. Occasionally, they go overboard and the movie becomes too gory for it’s own good. Cronenberg forgets, that less can be more.
For all its accolades, The Fly is severely let down by the deliberately slow pace. As a character study, it’s great. But, it’s meant to be a horror movie, and not enough happens to sustain the interest.
That is the fatal flaw for the movie, as it removes the fun element that should accompany a film like this. Cronenberg takes it all too seriously.
The Fly isn’t a bad film, at all. Far from it. Regrettably, there just isn’t enough excitement to keep you enthralled.
Definitely worth a watch, but not one that you would want to visit again, for many years.
A so-so affair.