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Cronenberg’s ‘The Fly’ fills Halloween horror niche

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, October 11, 2005

With the release of “A History of Violence,” director David Cronenberg is quickly becoming a well-known director. Most people aren’t familiar with his previous work, however.

That is a shame too, as it is filled with almost 40 years of excellent movies.

Fortunately, in preparation for the Halloween season, one of Cronenberg’s earlier masterpieces has made its way back onto DVD. The remake of “The Fly” (1986) that he helmed is perfect Halloween fun.

“The Fly” follows the age-old parable of science gone wrong. The plot is fairly well known, but for the uninitiated it follows the plight of scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum). Brundle is close to discovering the secrets of teleportation, so he enlists the aid of reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) to record his exploits. They quickly fall in love, but as her ex-boyfriend (John Getz) enters into the film, Brundle is pushed to finish his experiment.

This proves to be a very poor decision on his part. Since one of the final tests required before the machine’s completion was the teleportation of a live human being, Brundle places himself in the machine. Unfortunately, a tiny fly escapes his notice and makes the journey with him.

When Brundle leaves the machine, however, the fly is conspicuously absent. Apparently the two merged as they teleported, mutating Brundle’s genes.

Much of film’s impact comes from Brundle’s attempts to retain his humanity. As he slowly mutates into a man-fly hybrid, he is both disgusted and intrigued with what he is becoming. Goldblum does a terrific job in his role, and sells the role convincingly.

Director Cronenberg does a terrific jobs playing with the themes in the movie, namely being a cautionary tale of technology gone wrong. In many ways, this film holds more merit than it did nearly 20 years ago, as genetic testing and manipulation play into the movie well.

The special effects are superb. They are some of the best, most realistic examples of the 80’s capabilities in special effects creation. Brundle’s transformation is convincing, as it is a subtle evolution that only towards the end becomes nightmarish.

On the DVD, there are special features dedicated to showcasing the special effects. “The Brundle Museum of Natural History” showcases some of the many prosthetics and models they employed in the making of the movie.

For film auteurs, it is worth listening to the Cronenberg commentary track, as he talks about creating the movie and about the scientific implications of his film. He is absent through the other special features however.

David Cronenberg has been directing films for almost 40 years. Until recently however, his films have been more niche than mainstream. One should learn more about him this Halloween by checking out this DVD re-release.