Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 5: The Fly (1986)
A breakthrough in the science community has just occurred. After countless experiments, (and a few lost baboons along the way), our protagonist Seth Brundle (played by Jeff Goldblum) has cracked the mystery of teleportation in its most rudimentary form, transporting himself from one end of his experimental room to the other. Like all horror/sci-fi compilations, a conflict must exist within this groundbreaking discovery, an experiment gone wrong if you will. The conflict is ever-present in David Croenenberg’s 1986 rendition of the 1958 classic The Fly. A simple, yet critical mistake has occurred in the transportation of Brundle in this massive stride within the science community, with a common housefly becoming entrapped within the transportation chamber with Brundle, causing them both to be transported. The result? The slow and steady decline of our beloved protagonist.
As far as monster movies are concerned within the horror genre, The Fly is considered a staple for a variety of reasons. The moment the experiment goes haywire, the viewer is fully aware of what happened. However, our poor protagonist is unaware of the critical error. Upon emerging from the chamber on the other side of the room, the experiment appears to be successful.
The genetic fusion of Brundle and the fly, creating a new being referred to as Brundlefly, is not an instantaneous change. The effects are very gradual throughout the film’s entirety, creating a very slow burn and grotesque downfall for our brilliant scientist. As you begin to think the transition into Brundlefly can’t get any worse, Chris Walas’s makeup effects and Stephan Dupuis’s makeup art pleasantly prove the viewers wrong (both won an Academy Award for Best Makeup), creating a cringe-worthy experience that’s hard to witness, but one you simply can’t turn away from.
The transformation, however, isn’t all downhill as soon as Brundle walks out of the pod. As the genetic merging of Brundle and the fly’s cells begin to take place, Brundle at first experiences the advantages that flies have: stamina, strength and a heightened sense of awareness. Because of these effects, Brundle attributes the teleportation process itself as a cleansing process that completely rebuilds one’s cells, and even tries to convince others to give teleportation a shot. Brundle is so blinded by success that he’s willing to throw his girlfriend into the transporter without considering any of the consequences. By the time Brundle discoveries what truly happened during the experiment, the changes have become too permanent to switch. As Brundlefly becomes a little too fly and a little less Brundle, distinguishing the intentions of the two beings becomes next to impossible.
What Croenenberg’s version of The Fly demonstrates that the original does not is a slow, gradual transformation of Brundle into Brundlefly. Brundle does not emerge from the teleportation pod as an incoherent, grotesque beast. Rather, we witness Brundle experience subtle personality shifts that become much more gradual as the film progresses. We watch our protagonist slowly drift into madness while physically changing in the process.
In addition to being the classic tale of an individual drifting into madness from their own blinding ambitions that cloud their judgement, the score of The Fly also remains important for the time period and helps make the mood and aesthetics remain memorable over time. Contrary to the electronic synth that remained the norm within the 80’s horror and slasher genre, Howard Shore goes orchestral to set the mood, which invokes much more human emotion. Shore successfully sets the mood for a tragic love story within The Fly, making the audience much more invested on an emotional level compared to others within the sci-fi/monster genre within the time period. Brundle plays the hero, villain, and victim all in one, and rather than being withdrawn from the turn of events, the viewer becomes more invested than ever.
Goldblum under the direction of Croenenberg does a fantastic job of maintaining poise and rationality as he drifts into madness, and he slowly starts to lose morals and a sense of compassion that make him human, reverting back to a primitive and animalistic frame of mind. It’s this steady decline in character and physical appearance that contribute to the film’s success and keep it relevant within the genre, in addition to the brilliant makeup, effects and score. As far as monster/sci-fi films are concerned, The Fly is a must-see, and it will cause you to forever be repulsed at the thought of how insects ingest their food.