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From Under A Rock: The Fly (1986)

November 19, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: The Fly (1986)  


This week’s pick is a movie I (Michael) saw for the first time a few years back and have found myself rewatching on a somewhat regular basis ever since. This was probably my fifth or sixth viewing in three years, and so I felt it was time to show it to Aaron.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron finished the Indiana Jones trilogy by showing Michael The Last Crusade. This week Michael teleports Aaron out from under the proverbial rock for The Fly (1986).

The Fly
Released: August 15th, 1986
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg & Charles Edward Pogue
Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle
Geena Davis as Veronica Quaife
John Getz as Stathis Borans

Michael Ornelas: I’m never drawn to movies that are disgusting, but sometimes amazing makeup and prosthetic effects can make me appreciate them. This is an example where I was just blown away by the practical effects (and the general premise) of the film, and so I consider it to be an all-time visual great, despite being disgusting.

Aaron Hubbard: I unfortunately didn’t get to walk into this cold, as I mistakenly watched the 1958 film for this column. But both movies are very different, and both are really good, so this was a plus for me.

The Transformation
Michael: Obviously the big (and maybe only) story of this film is the character arc of Seth Brundle. What’s interesting about it is that it’s every bit as much a physical arc as it is a personality one. His physical form almost mirrors his psyche at pretty much any given moment. He’s a driven, ambitious scientist led to create a telepod for the greater good, because he gets motion sickness and wanted a way to travel without suffering from it. But soon that ambition turns to obsession, and from the moment he fuses with a housefly, his physique slowly deteriorates along with his mind. It’s an incredible way to mirror his journey and I ate it up (without having to spit bile onto it first to break it down, luckily).

Aaron: The transformation story is the main drive of the film, and you hit all the points of why it works in terms of execution. The story is absolutely on point here and rarely deviates from that main story thread. But the reason body horror works is because we are watching our humanity be warped and contorted. Body parts are mutated, the mind goes, and he becomes something else entirely. It’s the Theseus story; if a ship goes on a journey and replaces every part of itself, is it still the same ship? Is Brundlefly the same man inside as he was before, or is Seth Brundle totally gone?

Michael: I’d be tempted to say Brundle is gone, but his final moment in the movie says otherwise. Now, fully transformed, he’s asking Veronica to put him out of his misery. He is certainly changed and almost devoid of everything that made him Brundle. It’s actually a shame because his mind was just as sharp as his physique, and seeing him have that moment where he uses what’s left of his genius mind to basically say “Kill me” was heartbreaking. It also shows that sometimes, scientific curiosity can be our downfall. To quote Goldblum from another movie: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” It applies here as well. To be fair, the cross-species convergence was never his intention, but it’s the same idea. Sometimes we do stuff with science just to see if we can, with little regard to safety. Ultimately, curiosity killed the cat. Err…fly.

Jeff Goldblum: Leading Man
Aaron: Jeff Goldblum is one of the most unforgettable movie personalities of my childhood, thanks to Independence Day and Jurassic Park. He always plays similar characters, but he was an excellent pick for this movie. Goldblum has always been in this weird place between being a leading man and a memorable secondary character actor, and this may be the best example of that. I think this might actually be the best showcase of this man’s unique talents. And he does a hell of a job under the makeup as well.

Michael: I had a similar thought when viewing this for the first time. I think Goldblum could really afford to star in more movies. Or rather, could have, when he was younger. One of the best things an actor can do to distinguish himself is surprise audiences (and the directors they’re working for) with their performances, while still maintaining an air of authenticity. Goldblum is anything but conventional. He’s in the same conversation as Christopher Walken, William Shatner, or even Nicolas Cage in that regard. I put this as his third best role, and that’s only because the two blockbusters you mentioned were simply better movies. But that doesn’t take anything away from how awesome this is, both as a movie and for Goldblum.

Aaron: I think I would call this the best Goldblum role I have seen. The other movies are better, but he gets more to do here. His charm actually gets to lead to a complex relationship, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I have an appreciation for talents like Goldblum, who make an impact even if they never have a huge range. When Jeff has a role, there is nobody else who will play it like Jeff. I’ll take that over generic actors any day.

Veronica Quaife
Michael: I’m a feminist, and I don’t try to hide it. Therefore, I’m always pleased when a woman is able to play more than a damsel in distress. Veronica added so much to this film and never seemed to be playing a “typical” Hollywood female role. She wasn’t a “prize” to be won or anything for Seth. She was a partner to be pushed away and lost, but it wasn’t black and white. Throughout it, they had a healthy, equal relationship. There was never really a power struggle between the two, and if there was, she seemed more empowered than Seth. She was the audience surrogate in this film and she played it expertly, and came out of this experience as the most relatable personality in the movie.

Aaron: Well, I wouldn’t call this a “healthy” relationship, but I definitely like Veronica and their dynamic in this movie. She’s certainly in control of the relationship at all points, which I think is important for the theme of the movie. Seeing her stand up to the men in her life and make her own choices early on makes her reactions to the terrifying Brundlefly monster more effective. I also appreciate the level of genuine affection and even devotion she has for Seth even as his sanity unravels. This was also an aspect I loved in the 1958 film, and I’m glad it carried over.

Michael: I really need to get around to watching that…

Aaron: I really enjoyed getting to see this flick. I am a sucker for simple sci-fi plots that involve experiments and the results. Add in the monster effects and it’s something that’s going to appeal to me. This was executed nearly perfectly.


Michael: David Cronenberg’s version of this movie is disgusting, but in the best of ways. It’s visually imaginative, and it’s a fascinating character piece for Goldblum to dig his teeth into. Geena Davis delivered just as much as Goldblum, and it’s sci-fi at its most interesting. The only thing I’d really fault this movie for is its simplicity. It could have reached to deeper levels if it wanted to, but I also don’t think that’s necessary. Sometimes straightforwardness is excellence. That’s the case here.


Aaron: My only real issue was the ex-boyfriend; I felt his acting and lines were below par for the rest of the film.

Michael: And his name was Stathis. Even with all the body horror, that was the grossest thing in the movie.

Do you prefer the original or this remake?

Next week:

Aaron: Well, after you sufficiently grossed me out with this pick, I feel obligated to freak you out with my favorite film of 2014.
Under the Skin
Michael: I have no idea what to expect from this one, but you talked it up quite a bit to me since you’ve seen it, so that alone pumps me up for it. Plus I get to see some Scarlett Johansson, and that’s always good.

Aaron: Never a bad thing. This movie is one I would call “Kubrickian”, which is not a compliment I give lightly.

What are your favorite arthouse films of recent years?

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Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986)

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The final score: review Very Good
The 411
David Cronenberg's remake works both by itself and as a companion piece to the original. Jeff Goldblum gets a chance to show off his leading man credentials, the romantic plot adds a lot of heart to a sci-fi flick, and the practical effects are gruesome and haunting. We imagine it will be hard for some people to stomach, but for fans of sci-fi and body horror, it's a classic that shouldn't be missed.