The snobbish horror elitist in me is a little uncomfortable recommending a remake as, by and large, they are the scourge of the horror world.
But as reviled as they may be, remakes are not uniformly without merit. One of the greatest remakes ever conceived is 1986’s The Fly and Netflix has made it easy for you to not only see this phenomenal reimagining of The Fly, but the 1958 original starring Vincent Price as well. Today we'll recommend the remake, which is currently streaming in HD.
Who Made It: The 1986 version of The Fly was directed by David Cronenberg. If you aren’t familiar with his work, rectify this by reading our profile on the legendary filmmaker, as Cronenberg is one of the greatest horror directors of all time, and a personal hero of mine. His films all deal with some type of body trauma or mutation; earning his works the classification of “body horror.” If you enjoy The Fly, I would also highly recommend seeking out Scanners, The Brood, and Videodrome.
Who’s In It: The film stars Jeff Goldblum in the absolute prime of his career. All of the delightfully quirky tropes that we’ve come to know, expect, and love from him are almost permanently established in this film. His performance is so complex and heartbreaking to watch. Opposite Goldblum is Geena Davis who is in similar top form. Her struggle to be the one constant during Goldblum’s violent transmutation is agonizing and she excels in the role. Fun fact: the two actors were dating at the time, and Goldblum suggested Davis to Cronenberg, who initially didn't want to work with a real couple.
What It’s About: Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is a brilliant young scientist bound and determined to invent something that will forever change the course of humanity. He creates a teleportation machine that initially can only transport inanimate material. Eventually he solves the problem and, not wishing to further delay his breakthrough, hastily decides to test the machine on himself—much to the concern of his new girlfriend (Davis).
Unfortunately an unforeseen variable intercedes; a common housefly trapped in the teleportation pod with Seth. Now Brundle is transforming into something horrifying, something unspeakable, something not entirely human.
Why You Should Watch It: The Fly has several components that serve as major draws for the film. The first has got to be its stunning, and often times unsettling, makeup work. The metamorphosis from Brundle to Brundlefly is simply breathtaking. The transformation begins slowly, but as every piece of the intensely intricate makeup design is applied, we feel the weight, pain, and the horror of Brundle’s descent into monstrosity. The final incarnation of the creature is unbelievably imaginative and frightening. It may be grotesque, and you may not have the stomach to let your eyes linger on its slimy nooks and crannies, but there is something beautiful about the unquestionable artistry employed here. The final product was enough to net makeup artists Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis an Oscar for their efforts.
But the effects are far from the only draw here. The characters in this film are fascinating and wholly likeable from the onset. This allows us to fully empathize with them every shocking and horrendous step of the way. The film is impeccably shot and features some of the single most indelible imagery in modern horror. The score by Howard Shore is powerful and captures all the old-school grandeur of the original '50s-era film. The ending of The Fly is a heart-wrenching gut-punch; a multi-organ testament to the incomparably brilliant direction of David Cronenberg.
The Fly, like Frankenstein, is a tale of the modern Prometheus. Prometheus was a character from ancient Greek mythology who stole the power of fire from the gods and gave it to man. Mary Shelly adopted the subtitle “The Modern Prometheus” to her novel Frankenstein as she saw the titular doctor as a man who was striving to surpass the limits of mankind and sample the power of the almighty. In the case of The Fly, Brundle may not be aiming to obtain the power to bestow life, but he is seeking to become basically omnipresent; to be able to be anywhere and everywhere. His punishment, like that of Prometheus, is incredibly severe. The fact that both of their fates involve bodily torment (Prometheus being bound to rock to have birds peck out his perpetually regenerating liver) is most likely what attracted Cronenberg to this project.
There are buzzings that David Cronenberg is in talks to remake or sequelize his version of The Fly in the near future. A remake of a remake directed by the same author of that initial remake? That’s meta to a point of which we can barely conceive.