Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The Fly (1986 film)
Based on the short story by George Langelaan and its 1958 film adaptation directed by Kurt Neumann, The Fly is the story about a scientist whose attempt to create a teleport machine has suddenly gone wrong when a fly ends up in one of the pods he was in as his girlfriend tries to help him. Directed by David Cronenberg and screenplay by Cronenberg and Charles Edward Pogue, the film is a modern-day version of the 1958 film that explores a man’s experiment gone wrong as he starts to lose his idea of humanity. Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, and John Getz. The Fly is an astounding yet unsettling sci-fi horror film from David Cronenberg.
The film has this simple premise in which a brilliant yet eccentric scientist named Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) who has been trying to create a teleport machine in the hopes that the idea of traveling via air, road, or sea would ceased to exist. After showing it to a journalist named Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) who meets him at a science convention, she helps give him ideas on how something living can transport from one pod to another. When Seth decides to teleport himself from one pod to another, the experiment works until Veronica is convinced something has gone wrong when it became clear that a housefly was in the pod with Seth as he starts to disintegrate and lose his humanity where he becomes this strange hybrid between man and fly. It’s an idea that has all of the elements that is perfect for a sci-fi horror film with elements of drama and dark humor as it plays into a man’s obsession with becoming brilliant yet finds himself becoming something else.
The film’s screenplay has a unique structure that plays into world of Seth Brundle as the first act is about him meeting Veronica and showing her his teleport experiment. The two eventually have a relationship much to the dismay of Veronica’s editor/former boyfriend Stathis Borans (John Getz) who learns about the affair as he follows Veronica. An act of jealousy from Brundle over Veronica’s relationship with Stathis would have him try the experiment itself as its second act would play into his belief that the experiment has made him better. Veronica however, starts to question him about what he’s become as hairs are coming out of a scar from his back. It is all part of the schematics of what is expected in the genre yet David Cronenberg and co-screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue add an element of human drama into the story. Especially in the love story between Seth and Veronica as Seth finds someone he can talk to while Veronica is fascinated by Seth’s genius.
By the film’s second half where Veronica becomes concerned for Seth’s well-being and his denial about what he’s becoming. It all plays to this very chilling third act where Seth has accepted into what he’s becoming as he tries to find a way to save himself. Veronica tries to help but couldn’t believe the state that he’s become while there’s another element that ups the drama as well as everything else that would play into Veronica’s own well-being. This would get Stathis involved as he tries to help Veronica while discovering what has happened to Seth where it would play into a very intense climax.
Cronenberg’s direction is very engaging in not just the way he plays into the drama but also take a slow burn into creating the horror that is to come. Many of the compositions that Cronenberg does for its first act is quite simple as it plays out as an understated drama with a bits of humor and romance where it builds up the romance between Seth and Veronica. Yet, there’s the Stathis character who is kind of a smarmy schmuck that still has feelings for Veronica as he would definitely drive Seth into jealousy which makes him wanting to test his teleport device himself. Cronenberg would create these shots of Seth showing the newfound strength and abilities that he has after being teleported but there are a few moments where Cronenberg would play into that sense of horror through a few key shots and sounds that would create a sense of foreboding.
There are bits of horrific moments that occur in the first half but it would all come to play in the second half such as a scene where Seth leaves in a state of anger to get a drink as he would do some things that would begin his de-evolution as a human being. Notably in the third act where the horror becomes very real when Veronica finally sees what Seth has become after a few weeks where he’s become this very horrific hybrid of human and fly. There is also an added dramatic stake that would increase the sense of horror where Seth’s state of mind becomes more erratic and less human as it involves Veronica. Even as the horror becomes this mixture of gore and body horror as there’s some drastic decisions to be made as well as tragedy over what Seth had become. Overall, Cronenberg creates a very intense and terrifying film about a man’s experiment that went horribly wrong.
Cinematographer Mark Irwin does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the use of lights to play into the interior of Seth‘s loft as well as some of the look of the many locations set in Toronto. Editor Ronald Sanders does brilliant work with the editing by creating some methodical cuts to play up the horror as well as some rhythmic cuts to showcase Seth‘s state of mind as it becomes erratic. Production designer Carol Spier, with set decorator Elinor Rose Galbraith and art director Rolf Harvey, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of Seth‘s loft as well as the design of the pods.
Costume designer Denise Cronenberg does nice work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with the men wearing suits while it‘s Veronica that gets to wear some more stylish clothes. Special makeup effects by Stephen Dupuis and Chris Walas is tremendous for the look of Seth in the state he‘s in where he slowly starts to look like a freak with some very disturbing results as well as what he would look like later on as it‘s makeup work at its finest. Sound editors David Evans and Wayne Griffin do superb work with the sound from the way the pods sound when the doors open to some of the intimate moments such as the sound of the housefly. The film’s music by Mark Irwin is fantastic for its chilling score which is a mixture of low-key electronics and broad orchestral arrangements to play out the sense of horror and suspense.
The casting by Deirdre Bowen is terrific as it features a mostly small cast that includes Leslie Carlson as a doctor friend of Stathis, Joy Boushel as a woman at a bar Seth meets, George Chuvalo as that woman’s friend, and David Cronenberg making a cameo as a gynecologist in a very terrifying scene. John Getz is excellent as Stathis Borans as a man who has feelings for Veronica as he is very smarmy around her until he learns about what is happening to Seth as he tries to help Veronica. Geena Davis is remarkable as Veronica Quaife as a journalist who falls for Seth as she is later terrified by the changes he’s going through as she tries to help him while dealing with something that would complicate everything. Finally, there’s Jeff Goldblum in a magnificent performance as Seth Brundle as this brilliant yet weird scientist who hopes to change the world with a teleport machine only to succumb to the condition that would make him less human.
The Fly is an outstanding film from David Cronenberg that features brilliant leading performances from Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Along with some great technical work in its look, music, and its award-winning makeup effects. It is definitely a film that can be classified as what a horror film should be and more. Even as it has that element of human drama and suspense that makes it stand out to appeal to audiences who aren’t into horror. In the end, The Fly is a phenomenal film from David Cronenberg.
David Cronenberg Films: Stereo - Crimes of the Future - Shivers - Rabid - Fast Company - The Brood - Scanners - Videodrome - The Dead Zone - Dead Ringers - Naked Lunch - M. Butterfly - Crash - eXistenZ - Spider - A History of Violence - Eastern Promises - A Dangerous Method - Cosmopolis - Maps to the Stars
The Auteurs #26: David Cronenberg: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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