The Fly

The Fly. Brooksfilms 1986.

Before watching the movie:

Oh. Another horror film. Even though I’m not fond of horror. I’m more interested in this because it seems more like “creepy sci-fi” than horror, though. It’s hard to even place a good handle on what “horror” is, and that’s probably because I never get as scared as I’m told I’m supposed to by horror.

It occurs to me that Jeff Goldblum is an odd choice for horror. I thought for a while that he’d actually be rather good as a victim protagonist, but then he still has to act as the human/fly monster as well. So, it should be good to see him act out of type?

I really hope I get a good, safe scare out of this. But then, can a scare really be safe and still scary?

After watching the movie:

Veronica Quaife, a science journalist, goes to a mixer for scientists and meets Seth Brundle, who tells her he’s invented something that will change the world. Specifically, he’s invented a teleportation device. When he realizes she only came to his lab in a professional capacity, he asks her not to publish anything, but later realizes he wants to talk about it and asks her to observe him as he refines the process to allow for transmitting inanimate matter, and write a book about the invention that changed everything. Over the course of the work, they quickly become close, though Veronica has to fend off her clingy ex-boyfriend/editor. After successfully transmitting a monkey, Veronica has to duck out to take care of a childish stunt from him, and Seth gets jealous and drunk and tries it on himself. But he doesn’t realize that a fly has slipped into his telepod with him. At first he feels energized, and his new pace creates tension between him and Veronica, but eventually the mutation starts to catch up to him and he discovers the gene splice. Veronica is unsure what to do as she watches Seth slowly turning into a man-sized fly, his humanity slipping away.

This is a surprisingly slow-paced horror. I thought when the teleportation system was introduced in the first five minutes that the film was going to make him a fly before the curtain went down on the first act. In reality, this film is more like a love story, then a love story complicated by horror, and then only full-on horror in the finale. It’s a tragedy more than it’s horror.

If there is any form of life Jeff Goldblum is suited for turning into, it’s an insect. He’s already manic before the accident, he just speeds up and gets super-strength before he starts to become deformed. I consider the scene in the diner where he rambles about what’s happened at 80 miles an hour while dumping more and more sugar in his coffee the quintessential Goldblum, and his explanations of what’s happening to him during the transformation are sometimes a sad sort of cute. It’s a shame that before he starts to turn into the human/insect monstrosity, he’s something almost as hideous: an owner of 80s hair.

What I was least prepared for was the end. I forgot about the horror staple of the survival ending. If this were a romantic comedy, the terrible behavior of the editor/ex-boyfriend which was oversold wouldn’t be rewarded by being proven right and successfully defending Veronica. When she learns she’s pregnant, she goes in for an abortion believing the baby will be a mutant, but is abducted by Seth before she can carry it out. I was hoping for a hopeful epilogue where she at least keeps the baby, which turns out to really be “the last bit of the real me.” But there is no epilogue. What’s done is done, and she and her jerk/hero ex stand in shock as the credits roll.

Was I scared? I don’t freak out at things, but I was definitely disturbed in a creepy way. Most of the transformation was standard grossout fare without the usual horror shriek chords, but the moment the mutation completes is a haunting body horror moment. For the most part, it’s a cerebral sort of horror that sneaks into the back of the mind and lingers, rather than trying for a cheap scream. It’s the sort of film one experiences once, and then is enriched by it while wishing to never see it again.

 

Watch this movie: and swoon over Goldblum’s sexy fly-hairs!

Don’t watch this movie: over dinner.

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