Thursday, 29 September 2011

Shapeshifters Film Review 2: David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986)

Fig. 1. The Fly Poster       
          Cronenberg’s remake of the 1958 film The Fly is a stark contrast to the ideals and vision of Nuemann’s classic. The 80s were a different time with different influences and events, and it was because of these distinctions that led the 1986 remake to be so much more gritty and repulsive. Film technology and makeup were also a key factor to Cronenberg’s realisation of his remake; in the 50s some things were just not possible however in the 80s brutal visuals could be expressed on screen like never before. But in The Fly remake it’s not just mindless gore being thrown at the audience, there is also a link to the AIDS pandemic that started to spread into public view in the 80s,
“Though The Fly rewards a generalized reading as a metaphor for terminal illness without too much unused, leftover thematic material (hell, it's a pretty fantastic little horror flick/chamber tragedy on the surface, hence the easy tag line "Be afraid. Be very afraid."), almost every one of The Fly's viscous substances reflect the of-the-moment AIDS panic, - “ (Henderson, 2005).
Fig. 2. Seth Vomits
It might be because of the AIDS virus that caused Cronenberg to approach the remake in a different manner, instead of a man in a rubber mask his idea was going deep down to the genetic level and exposing the human bodies’ reaction to the mixture of fly DNA. This idea can very well relate to the AIDS virus in a manner of contaminating the human body and sending it down a path of deterioration, “- his augmented strength, not mention deteriorating complexion, could just as easily be a result of steroid use, and there are any number of debilitating diseases that correlate with Seth's loss of limbs, etc. –“ (Gilchrist, 2005).
More importantly however than the AIDS theme is how Cronenberg portrays the animalistic behaviour in the scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum); in the 1958 The Fly Andre is shown to be a respectable scientist with a loving wife and son and even in the midst of his transformation into the fly he is desperately retaining his human side to the point where he’d rather destroy himself than harm his family. On the other hand however, in the 1986 The Fly Seth Brundle is almost portrayed as a mad scientist; he has no wife or kids, instead he is seeing a female reporter who is a release to his sexual desires. Once his transformation takes place he embraces it rather than despises his work, he gives into the insects’ mentality and becomes a real monster.
“Along with his looks goes his personality and while this provides some tension, it really is the gruesome nature of his downfall that is the main feature of this otherwise unremarkable film.” (Haflidason, 2000).
Fig. 3. Frightened Veronica
In the end Brundle-fly is willing to risk the lives of his girlfriend and unborn baby to combine into a pure being. This aspect of the film makes it a completely different experience and different film altogether.


Henderson, E. (2005) Slant Magazine (Accessed on: 27.09.11)

Gilchrist, T. (2005) IGN Movies (Accessed on: 27.09.11)

Halfidason, A. (2000) BBC (Accessed on: 27.09.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Cronenberg, David (1986) The Fly Poster At: (Accessed on 27.09.11)

Fig. 2. Seth Vomits (1986) From: The Fly Directed by: David Cronenberg. [film still] USA: 20th Century Fox
Fig. 3. Frightened Veronica (1986) From: The Fly Directed by: David Cronenberg. [film still] USA: 20th Century Fox

1 comment:

  1. Well told Gabe, the introduction was a nice way of bringing the reader in. Your references are top notch I like this review!

    Only one critique, Your illustration list is missing 2 links (I'm only mentioning it incase the links are important). As far as I'm concerned the content is what matters. Bravo, Sir!