Friday, September 30, 2011

The Fly (1986) Review

The Fly can be held in high regards for two very important reasons. One: it is a remake that is actually an appreciable enhancement of the original. The Fly first debuted in 1958, directed by Kurt Neumann as an adaptation of the short story of the same name. If you’re not confused about any of this yet, you will be after I say that the original 1958 movie spawned two sequels and this 1986 film which has a sequel of its own. Not only that, but there was also talks of a third remake, but to my knowledge, those plans have since been discarded. Granted I’ve only seen the original and this remake, I can’t make any definite conclusions, but I think it’s safe to say that this is the definitive version (we all know how horror sequels tend to work out). The second reason this movie hits its mark well is that it doesn’t try to sell itself with excessive gore. It’s the concept here that’s truly frightening.

The Fly deals with a concept that has often been speculated upon in the field of science: transportation – teleportation, specifically. The protagonist, scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), has spent the last six years of his career developing a means of teleporting objects. Goldblum does an excellent job of portraying the “eccentric/mad scientist” stereotype. Well, I say stereotype, but that’s not quite what it is. The film makes it evident that that’s the character model he is based from, but he always fits the bill for being a human character, not simply a cut-and-paste contrivance (think Jeffrey Comb’s interpretation of Herbert West in Reanimator). For that reason, you can become both engrossed in his madness and piteous when presented with his flaws. Did I mention he does an incredibly accurate imitation of a fly? His is the performance to look out for.

The other actors also hold their ground fairly well. Essentially, the movie only has three characters. Everyone else is pretty much just an extra, and it works surprisingly well. Veronica, played by Geena Davis, is the love interest who does an excellent job of being a…love interest. Regardless how deformed Seth becomes, she consistently supports him. She does, of course, feel that what he’s done to himself is a bastardization of the human form, but the love she develops never dissipates. To the very end, everything she does is in his best interest. Borans, played by John Getz, is Veronica’s former lover, and when things go awry with Brundle, he serves as her crutch throughout the ordeal. It’s interesting how the movie can manage itself while focusing on so few characters. I can barely recall anyone else who was significant to the plot, yet everything worked out much better than bloated movies (ie. The Expendables, not to pick on an ensemble film).

What’s horrific about the film is the sparing use of gore. There are a few bloody scenes, but it mostly relies on shock value from the unexpected fusion between man and fly to serve as its pedestal for the horror tag. Oh, spoiler. The fear of science becoming too powerful and inhumane for people to handle. The fear of never knowing what to expect next, never knowing how grotesque you may become; and the corresponding embrace of that transformation. These ideas become more and more prominent as the third act of the movie hits you. The most appalling aspects of this transformation and its ramifications are kept off-screen, but the biggest of the consequences (which I’ll do you the favor of not spoiling to help motivate you to go out and see this movie) raises a good many questions. Honestly, the movie is more thought-provoking that it is scary, but what sane man wouldn’t feel wary of a man-fly? Or here’s a better question: what man could be so insane that a complete transformation into something indistinguishable macabre would have no bearing at all on his motivation to continue with the project that modified him?

By the end of the movie, you’ll doubtlessly contemplate the idea of fusion between man and beast, its benefits, and its disadvantages. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously (given the concept, that’s more than a good thing) so it may not leave the strongest impression on you, but if you’re a thinker, you’ll have much about the world of science to consider. The Fly paints a good picture of forcible evolution. Regardless of the outcome, it neither condemns nor condones it, leaving the viewer alone with their thoughts to consider the possibilities.