I have already explained the basic plot, to which this film adds a layer of doomed love. Seth Brundle is the scientist who makes the teleportation device. He meets Veronica Quaife, who is a journalist, and they start working together to chronicle his work on the device for a book. Soon enough, they fall for each other, much to the chagrin of Veronica's boss and ex-boyfriend Stathis Borans. When she has to go see him suddenly to straighten things out between them, a slightly melancholy and very drunk Brundle decides to teleport himself. But unbeknownst to him, a fly enters the teleport pod and both of their genes get merged when the teleportation takes place. His physique and personality begin to change. Veronica notices this and tries to find an explanation to help Brundle but he pays no heed. Eventually things get ugly and frightening.
This is quite the cult film, but the basic idea was first shown in the original The Fly, a 1958 film that has a really fantastic tagline- "Once it was as human as you and I! The FLY". It's like a chant. The Cronenberg 1986 version obviously has the now-iconic "Be afraid. Be very afraid" as the tagline, as one can see in the poster and also in the title of this post. Don't you love finding the birth-place, so as to speak, of famous expressions like this one? I would have actually associated it with some sort of film noir, though I guess it makes more sense in this context.
Now I said in the opening paragraph of this post that The Fly manages to stay exciting and fun despite the story being known to most of us. There are three reasons for that. The first is the brilliant and dynamic performance of Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle. As Brundle starts to morph into Brundlefly, we see how his personality changes to. How he is at the beginning of the film is completely different from how he is at the end. Yes that happens with most characters in practically every movie, but it is more marked here not only because of the look, but also due to the very sharp changes in his nature throughout the film. Goldblum manages to portray all these different facets of Brundle's shifting personality perfectly. He is goes from being a likable nerd to a detestable jerk to someone who has to be pitied for whats happening to then and finally he is scary and pathetic. At the time of the film's release, there was a lot of Oscar talk for his frankly electric performance, but we all know how small-minded the Academy tends to be.
The second reason has to be the makeup. Now that did win an Oscar, and deservedly so. The whole transformation of Brundle into Brundlefly is a slow but conspicuous process and Chris Walas designed and executed it. Apparently the whole gruesome transition was an allegory to diseases like AIDS and the ageing process, so the conversion happens step by step. It is really incredulous to look at. I personally wasn't that freaked out by the gory makeup and things falling off faces and melting limbs. I was generally really impressed by the monster movie feel of it, and found it humorous in parts. Not in a Scary Movie kind of a way, but just that it was so extreme at times that I couldn't take it as seriously as the characters in the movie did. Added to that, the last fifteen minutes of the film where most of the gross stuff happens kept getting stuck in my stupid DVD player, and it stopped at the most outrageous moments that inadvertently made this a really hilarious experience for me (I wish I had taken screenshots but I am an idiot!). Of course, I don't hold that against the film at all. If anything, it made it better for me.
Finally, I really enjoyed the story. I liked the romance between Brundle and Veronica, the latter played by the gorgeous Geena Davis. In my opinion, it is more of an ill-fated love story and it reminded me of King Kong quite a lot. Goldblum and Davis had a great chemistry together. Sure she gets a bit damsel-in-distress-y towards the end, but I thought she was smart and cool. Also it was an intelligent script. It had some great lines and it was one of those scripts that provide us with the different pieces of a puzzle, in the sense that everything in the story fits. All the information that is given to us has a point and fits somewhere in the grand scheme of the film. I find that very admirable. It is quite intense too, which is where I think the real horror part comes to play. As I said above, it was meant to draw parallels to some really serious topics, and also to the inevitability of ageing. That is something which makes all of us very afraid, and the film attempts to evoke similar feelings in us, in its own blood and guts and vomit-y enzymes sort of way.
Finally, with the release of Cosmopolis coming close, everyone has been talking about the crazy Cronenberg days. If you are like me and haven't seen any of the films from that period, I think The Fly is a great place to start. It is strange but it is still sensible and very entertaining. I reckon it will only get weirder, but I am uncharacteristically optimistic.