The Fly

Dir: David Cronenberg
Star: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel

Trash City
Top 50 Film
This brilliant remake brings something genuinely new to the party. The original, starring Vincent Price, was a straightforward mad scientist film, with few pretensions and a somewhat silly ending. Cronenberg keeps the same basic premise - a boffin's experiment goes badly wrong, causing him to start turning into an insect - but almost turns it into a philosophical essay on 'the flesh' and our relationship to it, as well as his favourite topics of disease and body-horror. However, he never forgets that it's a genre film, and there are some classic moments, such as the birth-scene (in which Cronenberg himself plays the attending gynaecologist), and the steadily decaying transformation of Brundle-fly (Goldblum). Almost twenty years later, the FX by Chris Walas still hold very nicely - the most dated aspect of this is probably the suitcase-sized camcorder wielded by journalist Veronica Quaife (Davis) as she documents progress.

Jeff Goldblum delivers a brilliant performance, and I speak as someone who usually can't stand his characters. He is perfect for the role, both as the geeky, but generally 'normal' scientist, and as he gradually mutates into what at first seems like a new, improved version of humanity. However, the truth gradually reveals itself, in bad skin, then loosening teeth and fingernails, and finally something barely human to look at, but - and this is crucial - which still retains its basic humanity. At the end, you feel genuinely sorry for him, not helped by the smug prick (Getz) with whom Quaife is involved. His continued presence, rather than immediate horrific demise, is a rare mis-step in a film that manages to combine visceral entertainment with intelligence, in a great demonstration of why "leaving things to the viewer's imagination" is not necessarily better.

June 2007

Your fly is undone...
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