Friday, 30 March 2012

Superior Re-Makes #1: The Fly (1986)

The Fly is a 1986 sci-fi/horror film and is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name starring Vincent Price. Directed by body-horror auteur David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome) and starring Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Independance Day) and Geena Davis (Thelma & Louise, Beetlejuice). The film won an Oscar in 1987 for Best Makeup Effects.

The Fly (much like the orginal) centres around a brilliant scientist attempting to invent a teleportation device. In this case it's Seth Brundle (Goldblum) who stumbles upon this miracle and agrees to share his discovery with Veronica Quaife (Davis), a journalist for Particle Magazine who soon becomes his lover. Brundle has built his custom pods and has teleported inanimate objects successfully, but teleportations of living animals have gone awry (as demonstrated by the famous "inside-out baboon"). After a row between the lovers, Brundle decides he can't wait any longer and after some tweaks to the device, teleports himself successfully. However, as the movie progresses it becomes clear that when Brundle was teleported, a fly had managed to get inside the machine thus splicing their DNA together. This results in a spectacular metamorphosis as Veronica watches the man she loves transform into the grotesque Brundlefly.

This film is well remembered (and won many awards) for it's groundbreaking special effects. In a time long before before CGI was commonplace, Chris Walas (makeup artist) created some of the most incredible practical effects of the 1980s (The Thing and American Werewolf in London not withstanding).  Combined with the twisted mind of Cronenberg, the film certainly stands as one of the most disgusting films ever made. I have my own peronal memories of watching this film as a kid and my brother having to leave the room as he couldn't stomach it and I'm sure many other people have had the same experience, particularly with the arm wrestling scene. I'm sure that the effects of the orginal film were groundbreaking for the time, but after seeing the fully transformed Brundlefly, a guy wearing a furry fly head can't help but be overshadowed by Cronenberg's disturbing vision.

Symbolically, the film represents a very different time in society when compared to the original. The 50s version was an allegory of scientific experimention, as were most sci-fi movies of that era, but wisely Cronenberg adapts the premise to act as a metaphor for degenerative disease which is widely seen as a response to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. The Brundlefly is up there with King Kong as one of the most sympathetic movie monsters of all time. This was present in the original, but through Brundle's agonising transformation we really invest so much more into the character. As a result of this excellent writing and character development, the film manages to straddle a very bizarre line between revulsion and actually being moved by the tragic fate of the character.

The original is still well worth a watch, if only for the presence of Vincent Price, but Cronenberg's Fly is an absolute masterpiece in the body-horror sub genre that has come to define his work. The film did spawn a fairly decent sequel which followed the story of Brundle and Veronica's child, but for a really seminal 80s creature feature you must see this film. Just make sure you watch it after you've had your dinner.

5 stars *****

Have you ever seen the film? Do you think it's a superior remake?


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