The Fly (1986) Movie Review – 31 Days of Halloween

Horror, Sci-Fi | 91 Min
The Fly (1986) Horror Movie Review
  • Director: David Cronenberg
  • Actors: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Joy Boushel
  • Writers: Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg, George Langelaan
  • Producers: Stuart Cornfeld
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Violence, Language, Gore, Body Horror, Nudity, Sexual Content
  • Horror, Sci-Fi | 91 Min

When Seth Brundle makes a huge scientific and technological breakthrough in teleportation he decides to test it on himself. Unbeknownst to him a common housefly manages to get inside the device and the two become one.

Welcome to Knockout Horror. It’s day 29 of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature and we are checking out another horror classic. Well, I say classic but this movie is actually a remake of an even older classic horror. As you may have guessed, and read in the title above, we are reviewing David Cronenberg’s The Fly from 1986.

I know we have covered a lot of classic movies the past week or so but you have to bring out the big guns for Halloween. Next year I will probably avoid the review a day format and jut put together a couple of lists. I plan to mix up the themes a little as reviews simply don’t get any traction on search engines. Especially not old ones. Anyways, enough ranting, on with the review.

Only a Few Days to Go

We are almost there, it’s nearly Halloween. Do you have anything cool planned or are you just going to be kicking back with some popcorn and some horror movies? Halloween falling on a Tuesday this year means that a lot of people seem to be doing their celebrations on the weekend. There were parties taking place all over the place on our drive to the local supermarket yesterday and pub goers were all decked out in fancy dress.

The Fly (1986) Horror Movie Review

We live in a very rural house so we won’t have to put up with kids knocking on the door so it’s just a case of picking a few movies to watch. There’s a fair chance that we may just watch a bunch of Treehouse of Horror episodes, though, as this October has been crammed fall of horror classics as it is. The Fly being one of them.

Legitimately Scary

Did anyone else catch this movie on television when they were way too young. Get completely freaked out by Seth Brundle puking all over his food and spend the next few years constantly worrying about their finger nails falling off? Because I sure as hell did. This movie scared the crap out of me when I was a kid and it really stuck with me. I mean, let’s be honest, it is easy to scare a kid. But I think this movie is still scary to this day. It’s also pretty gross.

The Fly (1986) Horror Movie Review

I actually turned it off for awhile when I first watched it as it made me feel a little bit sick. I did end up turning it back on and I legitimately enjoyed it. Aside from the fact that this is a genuinely scary movie. It features a moving story and some of the most effective horror effects and imagery in history. I think The Fly is the movie that really sparked my love of body horror.

A Reimagining of a Classic

Following the story of a scientist who conducts an experiment that goes horribly wrong. Slowly transforming him into a human fly. The Fly is something of a reimagining of the 1958 Kurt Neumann film of the same name. Whereas Neumann’s version of the story was criticised for being, how should I put it? Disgusting. Cronenberg basically said “Hold my beer” and decided to turn the grossness up to the next level. The Fly is Cronenberg at his skin crawling best.

The Fly (1986) Horror Movie Review

I’m a big fan of the 1958 version of The Fly but it has, obviously, been dulled by the passage of time. While still a brilliant horror movie, it’s not the horrifying, scary, movie it once was. Cronenberg’s version, on the other hand, has held up incredibly well. It is not a movie without its struggles, though. In fact, first script of the movie was so disliked by executives at 20th Century Fox that they immediately withdrew from the movie.

Young Frankenstein’s Mel Brooks, of all people, was brought on to produce in an uncredited role. Brooks and fellow producer Stuart Cornfeld hired War Games writer Walon Green to rewrite Pogue’s script. Only for Pogue to be brought back on board to finish the job. British director Robert Bierman was given the script and placed at the helm of the movie. But a horrific tragedy that claimed his young daughter took him away from the production and would result in him not returning. Cronenberg was offered the position and agreed on the condition that he could rewrite the script. Brooks and Cornfeld agreed and the rest is history. 

Both Touching and Horrifying

The Fly brought together an engaging story with some extremely effective visual horror to make for a movie that is beyond memorable. Brundle’s transformation into a fly is captivating. It isn’t just a physical transformation. Brundle’s mind starts falling apart and he beings to mentally collapse. With his personality drastically changing and him becoming more impulsive, more aggressive, and less in control of his emotions.

The Fly (1986) Horror Movie Review

Sure, the physical stuff is going to be the thing that sticks with you. With the transformation being legitimately disgusting and some of the scenes turning your stomach inside out. But the thing that makes it so good is that it isn’t simply a mindless horror movie. Cronenberg has managed to put together a movie that is both scary and touching. Brundle is a character that you genuinely feel for. To watch him slowly unwind is affecting and even moving.

Cronenberg spends a decent amount of time building Brundle and Quaife’s relationship. Making sure to guarantee that the viewer is invested in Brundle’s downfall. He is a victim of his own genius and that makes for a type of horror that feels very unique. This isn’t just a run of the mill monster horror movie. The Fly is a deep story with characters you care about and some fantastic writing.

Amazing Body Horror

Naturally, we can’t talk about this movie without referencing the body horror. It is typically Cronenberg and absolutely disgusting in parts. Some of the scenes here are beyond nasty. For Brundle to become a fly he has to shed everything that makes him human. That means finger nails dropping off, teeth falling out and everything in between. It isn’t just that, though. That’s not enough. We have bones being snapped, faces being melted and much more. It’s brilliant stuff and the effects are excellent. The Fly is a great reminder of just how good practical effects can be.

The Fly (1986) Horror Movie Review

There are also some good old fashioned traditional horror scares as well. With Brundle becoming increasingly animalistic as the movie goes on. The later stages of the film are consistently intense. With the final 20 minutes or so being genuinely unnerving. All of this is helped massively by Jeff Goldblum’s sensational performance.

The Fly (1986) Horror Movie Review

He is fantastic here, perfectly capturing Brundle’s mix of genius and eccentricity. He brings a ton of energy to the role and is completely convincing throughout. Especially towards the later parts of the film when Brundle truly unwinds. Geena Davis is also pretty great in an accompanying role. Doing a brilliant job of showing Veronica’s empathy for Brundle but also her fear of him.

Final Thoughts and Score

It’s hard to weigh up movies from the 80s with modern horror. Especially when it comes to scares as modern horror is just so different. All things being equal, though, The Fly might be one of the scariest horror movies of all time. It is genuinely unsettling and the body horror elements are some of the best in horror history. Jeff Goldblum is brilliant as Brundle and Cronenberg actually makes you care about the characters here. It’s a great option, a horror classic and a brilliant option in the run up to Halloween.

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