Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. While the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won't lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), a brilliant but eccentric scientist attempts to woo investigative journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) by offering her a scoop on his latest research in the field of matter transportation, which against all the expectations of the scientific establishment have proved successful. Up to a point. Brundle thinks he has ironed out the last problem when he successfully transports a living creature, but when he attempts to teleport himself a fly enters one of the transmission booths, and Brundle finds he is a changed man. This Science-Gone-Mad film is the source of the quotable quote "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Written by
Mark Thompson <email@example.com>
Veronica tells Seth (Jeff Goldblum) that "Something went wrong." Ellie Sattler tells Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) the same thing in Jurassic Park (1993). Brundle and Malcolm are also both in the habit of wearing the same set of clothes every day. See more »
Brundle merges genetically with the Fly that flies into the pod. But the chances are that it is not a clean fly, and so he would merge genetically with all the bacteria on the Fly as well. See more »
What am I working on? Uhh... I'm working on something that will change the world, and human life as we know it.
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Just last week, in one of my Screen Analysis tutorials, our tutor good-naturedly decided that if we were going to be film students we needed to be exposed to disturbing things. What he showed us was an excerpt from an expressionist French film made in the late 20's, the name escapes me. Before we had reached the climactic scene, every one in the class had already guessed it, as we had seen images so far of a man purposely sharpening a razor blade, and then approaching a complacent woman in a chair and holding wide open one of her eyes. At this point one of the girls in the room rather loudly asked of the tutor, jokingly but in something of a shaky voice, "Why are you doing this?"
This question, I think, could well be the definitive mark of really effective horror, and it was certainly in the back of my mind nearly all of last night as I was watching David Cronenberg's "The Fly" for the first time. True horror films, by their nature, should strive to get their audience to ask this question, because it means that they are transcending the illusion of moving pictures and becoming a film suspending disbelief and getting under your skin. Effectiveness aside, however, I believe that the mark of exceptional horror is when the question stems from a concern for the characters' wellbeing, and not your own. With both these thoughts in mind, I suspect that "The Fly" could well be the second best horror film of all time (behind Kubrick's "The Shining", which, I admit, got to first place by completely different criteria. Such is life, I'm afraid).
Remade from a 1958 concept starring Vincent Price (and later popularized by "The Simpsons"), the film follows a pretty archetypical horror premise: science gone (of course) horribly wrong. In this case, Jeff Goldblum (in his tour-de-force performance) plays Seth Brundle, an independent scientific visionary who has been slowly designing a device that will "change the world as we know it" a Teleporter. When he shows his invention to romantic interest Veronica (Geena Davis), it is not quite ready to handle living tissue (demonstrated on screen in the first instance of quite confronting gore), but as the two grow a relationship and fall in love, the wrinkles in the technology are ironed out and so Brundle takes one small step for man and tests the machine on himself. Unfortunately, in the process of teleportation, his DNA is mixed up with that of a common housefly, and although not immediately transformed, as in the original, the two species soon begin to genetically merge and transform Brundle into a creature that has never existed before and for damned good reasons.
Cronenberg, of course, never shortchanges his audience with graphic gore, and even viewed with the critical eye of Generation Y, the film's mid-eighties effects are still quite sickening, none more so than Goldblum's slow physical transformation. What makes this whole affair really outstanding, however, is his psychological transformation: the truly disturbing thing is how front and centre the humanity of these characters and their world is kept. Davis and Goldblum are the heroes in this regard their chemistry is palpable, and her affection for him struggling against her disgust at what he is becoming, coupled with his own struggle to keep the fly in check, create the kind of riveting discomfort usually only commanded by train-wrecks.
I was, in fact, quite strongly reminded of Darren Aronofsky's 2000 film-adaptation of Hubert Selby's novel "Requiem for a Dream" although the subject matter differs greatly, both films derive their horror elements most strongly from a place that is completely removed from Horror and in both examples the source is basically Love. In this sense, the film affects a lot like real life tragedies do, because it begins in a place truly pure and good and unsuspecting, lets its characters discover how wonderful life can be, and then Horror is unjustly, and irrevocably, forced upon them. This is why it is genuinely moving, instead of tacky, when Goldblum resigns to Davis with a regretful and yet matter-of-fact air that "(he is) an insect who dreamt (he) was a man, and loved it. But now the dream is over and the insect is awake". And in true Cronenberg style, this prophecy becomes quite literal in the third act (think Vincent D'Onofrio in "Men in Black").
Now, in a film that had spent more time on sinister close ups of flies and haunting music cues and not on the bare and essential humanity of the doomed lovers, at this point I probably would have asked "Why are you doing this to me?" and that could have been the end of it dismissed as senseless disturbing cinema and forgotten. As Cronenberg, Goldblum and Davis have done it, what I asked was "Why are you doing this to them?" And that's the kind of film that you don't ever forget.
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