By: Denis Blot
Scanners, The Dead Zone, Dead Ringers, Crash, these are only a handful of the brilliant films director David Cronenberg’s has made in his career. His current A History of Violence has not surprisingly attained much acclaim, and Fox has been wise to take advantage of its release with their own release of a Special Edition DVD of The Fly. While many films in the horror genre loose their ability to scare after several years, the make up and special effects becoming outdated and in some cases may appear hokey, Cronenberg’s 1986 film holds up beautifully.
The film’s longevity can be attributed to its dramatic aspects that go beyond the traditional horror film. The Fly is just as much a melodrama, as it is a horror film. Jeff Goldblum in a stellar performance plays the scientist who in the course of the film finds himself dealing with the bodily transformations that a house fly’s gene combined with a human’s will unexpectedly produce. Goldblum’s experience is akin to someone with an incurable disease slowly watching his or her body decay. It is horrific because that process is one of our greatest fears. The film, as Cronenberg points out in the DVD’s director commentary, also functions as a triangle love affair; Gina Davis falls for Goldblum, and works for John Getz who is also her former boyfriend and still madly in love with her. The dynamic relationship between the three of them provides a melodramatic backdrop that at points melds into the story of horror.
The gore in the film is slowly built up, the audience like the characters in the film wait to see what Goldblum will end up becoming, and in waiting watch as his skin, hair, and body parts degrade. By this process the audience is both disgusted and sympathetic towards Goldblum’s plight. The final unveiling of the human- fly creature is short, but absolutely terrifying, not only due to its gross appearance but also because it accompanies the realization that Goldblum’s human side is completely lost.
The DVD is loaded with great extras; beside the aforementioned director’s commentary, viewers are also treated to a two-hour documentary (broken up into sections) covering every conceivable aspect of the film, deleted scenes, and alternate endings. If you are interested in reading, there is also a digital version of the original short story of The Fly, the screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue, and Cronenberg’s revised screenplay version. If you have not gotten bug-eyed from staring at the TV screen after all of this, there are also trailers and other promotional materials for the film.
The Fly is a classic Cronenberg film and if you take the opportunity to listen to the director’s commentary and compare screenplay versions, you will certainly gain an appreciation for the true auteur that he is. Those who are true fans of gore can learn more about the special effects performed by Chris Walas and his team in the documentary. Considering the magnitude of genetically enhanced or manipulated food, the success of the genome project, and the ideas of gene therapy, the tale of genetic recombination resulting in horrific results is truer today than it was almost twenty years ago, making the film certainly worth watching.