One of the most lauded horror films of the 80’s directed by David Cronenberg no less and I just recently got around to watching it. We get to see Goldblum do what was to become his signature technobabble (he would make an excellent Time Lord if the Doctor Who series would ever forgive an American as its title character). He plays a only slightly mad scientist here a Seth Brundle, well at first anyway. He’s being interviewed by a stunning Geena Davis (wowsers, first we get a 70’s Bonnie Bedelia in Salem’s Lot and now an 80’s Geena Davis, the luck horror films bring) who plays an intelligent and ravishing freelance science magazine reporter named Veronica, who is attending a science conference to get the scoop on new innovations in the field. She’s not impressed at all by the tall, lanky, and socially awkward Brundle. The scientist stares with a pensive frown He somehow convinces her to come to his lab far out of town in a seemingly abandoned brick apartment building. He opens a large stainless steel sliding door and they enter into his lab. There are three large black vats, one with a cover over it. Between the two uncovered vats, is a gigantic 1950’s like computer station. It looks like a washing machines with big blocky buttons on it. However, we soon find out that it isn’t any mere stone age machine. It receives voice commands and recognizes voice patterns. There’s a molecular analyzer equipped in it as well. What, then, does it actually do?
Well, as anyone who has ever seen the Simpson’s parody knows, Brundle’s invention transports things from one device to another by means similar to that of a fax. Up to this point, he has experienced success transporting inanimate objects but not living ones. What happens when he transports the living ones is demonstrated rather grossly with an unfortunate baboon. I thought to myself, he doesn’t start with mice or insects, he just goes immediately to higher mammals? I mean, how much must it have cost to get ahold of a baboon?
Things become intimate with Veronica and the love affair inspires Brundle to rethink how his computer perceives flesh. The ill-fated baboon’s brother (does he have a baboon stud farm in the back room or something?) goes well and Brundle sends it away for a full medical test to see if the transportation really went successfully. Meanwhile, Veronica’s slimy bearded editor (and ex-boyfriend/lover) played by John Getz is pushing her to find a decent story and hinting at giving their failed relationship another chance. The usual boring side character shtick. She inexplicably goes to him to break things off after the successful baboon experiment. Left alone with the half empty bottle of champagne, Brundle decides to take the plunge. Unfortunately, he isn’t the only living thing in the chamber when the doors seal. A tiny common housefly glides on in to join him and join him it does.
The rest of the film plays out like a sort of experiment. What happens when human and insect DNA combine? At first, it seems exciting like an origin story of some sort of superhero. Then the situation begins to deteriorate which has its ups and downs. The scientific, almost Richard Matheson like aspects are thrilling to watch. Seeing Goldblum wax philosophical about insect politics and puke all over his breakfast is somewhat less appetizing.
I found myself really liking Geena Davis’ Veronica character quite a lot. She’s not a screaming, whining brainless babe afraid for her own safety only. She really cares for Brundle and her tears are of sympathy for his deteriorating mental and physical condition. The thrilling climax is well done and rather a gross out fest. There’s acidic puke, melting and severed limbs, and horrific transformations which reminded me but didn’t impress me as much as, the scenes from John Carpenter’s The Thing in which non-CGI man made bloody special effects made the action so much more immediate and terrifying. The Fly is a mixed bag but the great scenes are really great and the lead female character is refreshingly well written.