Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Fly (1986)

image copyright Brooksfilms
Although sometimes described as a remake of the 1958 film of the same title, this movie is more of a reinterpretation of the basic premise - a malfunction with a prototype teleporter causes a scientist to be crossed with a housefly - viewed through director David Cronenberg's distinctive imagination.  As a result, this version of the film is closer in spirit to the classic 50's B-Movie monster horrors, making full use of special effects, particularly makeup, in order to shock and unsettle the audience.
It must be said at this point that this film is considerably more gory than the original picture, a contrast that is well illustrated by the fate of the first animal test subject.  In the original film, the scientist tries out the teleporter with his pet cat, which unfortunately fails to rematerialise, disappearing into the aether with a haunting wail.  In this film however, the scientist chooses to experiment with a baboon.  Whilst the baboon does successfully rematerialise in the second teleportation pod, as the smoke clears, it is revealed that the unfortunate creature has arrived inside out, living just long enough for it's horrific death spasms to be captured in all their bloody glory by director David Chronenberg.
Image copyright Brooksfilms
Although some effort has gone into trying to make the science of the teleporter vaguely believable, it is let down by careless inconsistencies - as Lindy Loo says in the blog "come play with us danny", "at the beginning, he transports steak on a plate through his teletransporter devices, but they don't become steak-plates or anything. And yet later, teletransporting himself while a fly is accidentally in the pod with him, the two conjoin to become one."
However, while the special effects are stunning (and disturbing), they cannot rescue a plot that was described by the New York Times film reviewer, Caryn James, as "a film that tries to be too many things at once - funny but not campy, sad and scary, a horror story and a human tragedy".  The story is most successful when depicting the relationship between scientist Seth Brundle (Geoff Goldblum), and the reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davies), particularly the tension that Veronica feels as the man that she is in love with starts to transform into a hideous, subhuman monster.
Whilst this film is less heavy handed in it's delivery of a moral on the hazards of playing god and messing with forces we do not understand, it is still fundamentaly a tale of a man who experiments with knowledge that man was not meant to meddle with, and as a result is cursed to transform into a hideous monster.  Like the original film, the descent into bestiality is made all the more horrifying by the fact that we can see that he is aware that his humanity is slipping away from him - as Christopher Geary, of says, "It's a powerful scene of human horror that ranks highly among the best genre movie performances of all time"
image copyright Brooksfilms

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