While 1958’s Universal horror film “The Fly” was in fact a truly creepy and bleak horror drama with little to no story elements that signaled a clear cut resolution for anyone that would ensure a life of sanity, it almost seemed like a film that held unrealized potential. The story itself was much too ahead of its time for the fifties and could have given us something more. It’s a classic, but not one that gives a hundred percent. Cue David Cronenberg who had the foresight to realize the almost Lovecraftian potential of the story and transformed a creature feature in to a rather brilliant and incredibly iconic horror drama that mixed elements of Lovecraft, Giger, his own surreal craftsmanship, along with a hint of Frankenstein for good measure.
David Cronenberg’s form of the remake is almost an out style form of art in which a director will take what is generally a flawed piece of work with mass potential and turns it in to something sophisticated and more suited to modern sensibilities. Director John Carpenter took a short story that was turned in to a typical monster movie and transformed it in to a horrifying, nightmarish and desolate tale for survival against a faceless alien foe. David Cronenberg commits a feat, transforming a respected if flawed horror classic like “The Fly” morphing it in to a Gothic, scientific, tragic romance filled with gore, and ooze, and never shying away from its intent. Displaying the morbid and grotesque amalgamation of Man, beast, and his ultimate creation that goes horribly awry, Cronenberg’s horror film is cerebral and terrifying.
Since its inception, Cronenberg’s film has been so adamantly respected and acknowledged that it’s managed to dwarf its predecessor inspiring many an essays, literary works, and even an award winning opera. “The Fly” is the very essence of what the remake should be; a re-imagining of a concept that should be better realized and Cronenberg does it in spades as a film that’s a combination of the classic Frankenstein tale, and a Gothic romance where Dr. Brundle manages to concoct the ultimate teleportation machine that not only manages to bring about a new form of transportation but an entirely new breed of man and fly. This is where “The Fly” becomes less about horror and much more about the perceived instincts of Brundle who is at constant battle with his instincts as the Brundlefly, and as the whole man.
When threatened with his project to transport inanimate objects, Brundle dares to defy them and test the transportation on organic materials such as humans or animals. What Brundle’s genius doesn’t comprehend in the midst of his romantic interludes with reporter Veronica Quaife is that it is entirely possible for the computer to transport two organic materials and form them as one in the process. This becomes painfully apparent when Brundle discovers he was formed together with the common house fly that snuck in to his pod in the middle of his aggressive experiments. Brundle not only learns of the physical advantages of this combination but discovers his own flaws as a genius, that not only prove beneficial to his experiment but in revealing his own hubris that caused him to woefully overlook the glaring in his invention.
Soon Brundle deteriorates as the fly begins to take dominance over his own human DNA and evolution plays a key role in the grizzly fate of Brundle whose own abilities whittle away in the midst of grotesque forming of hair and skin, the deterioration of his bodily limbs, and a new process of digesting food that makes for a truly nauseating sequence almost thirty years after the fact. Jeff Goldblum is in rare form here as Brundle, the man so obsessed with his passion project that he never allows room for rationale or logic to come in to play and guide him in to a successful project. A project that seems ever more out of reach the more he evolves in to this monstrous hybrid. Even for newcomers to Cronenberg’s legacy, “The Fly” is a masterpiece of tragic science fiction and Gothic horror and worthy of a second look for those who admire Cronenberg’s evident ambition toward this creative work.