October 03, 2015

The Fly

In The Fly (1986), Jeff Goldblum, playing a scientist named Seth Brundle, slowly transforms into a bug, and the make-up effects of Chris Walas are utterly horrifying. The first half of the movie is actually kind of sweet: it's about an eccentric but lovable scientist, working on a teleportation device--who falls in love with a journalist played by Geena Davis. Their chemistry together is believable, and both of them have presence on the screen, real presence that commands our attention. But as Seth transforms into this hideous bug, the film itself turns into nothing more than a spectacle, as though director David Cronenberg is saying: "Hey look at this crazy shit right here!" Perhaps I wouldn't complain if the spectacle were more interesting. As much as Cronenberg seems to want to be the lit theory horror filmmaker par excellence, conjuring up allusions to Kafka's Metamorphosis and turning The Fly into a blank canvas on which can be read quite a few metaphors, from the AIDS crisis to the cocaine crisis to our growing anxieties about science--The Fly lost me. The effects were more than I could take, and that's saying something. But more than just gag-inducing make-up effects, The Fly essentially has too little going on in it once the romance dissolves and it becomes Geena Davis watching helplessly as her tortured, brilliant lover turns into a hideous creature. With John Getz. Written by Cronenberg and Charles Edward Pogue, from the George Langelaan novel. (And of course, it's a remake of a 1958 sci-fi shocker starring Vincent Price.)

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