The Fly (1986)

OPRAH says, “Love doesn’t hurt;” pretty big words for someone who has never had a romance with a person whose genes have been fused with those of a common housefly. Investigative journalist Veronica Quaife (GEENA DAVIS) knows better, for even with the best intentions going in, her love affair with scientist Seth Brundle (JEFF GOLDBLUM) ends up mutated beyond recognition, completely unsalvageable and very, very painful.

Things begin in the typical manner between Veronica and Seth; playful jabs give way to longing looks and before you know it, sheets are flying and Chinese take out is being ordered. At this point their radical personality differences are mutually celebrated. Veronica is an aggressive yet amiable career gal who’d like to forget a recent bad relationship with her sleazy editor Stathis (JOHN GETZ), and Seth is an introverted loner married to his work who, “hates vehicles” and confesses to being not very knowledgeable about “the flesh.”

Together they are a perfect symbiotic team. When not canoodling he creates machines that can transport baboons from one side of the room to the other, and she diligently records it when they get all turned inside out into mush. Their future hopes include a bestseller for her and a world without vehicles for him (plus maybe a Nobel Prize or two). Much like in real life everything was going great until everything started going great. See, Seth finally did get his baboon transporter to work BUT just when he did, Veronica stepped out to meet with her ex to tell him to shove it and Seth got all wicked jealous. Jealousy my friends can sometimes lead to drunkenness and poor decision making. Sometimes it can lead to you jumping into a baboon transporter without checking to see if there is a fly in there too.

For a while Seth does not realize how much he has screwed up, in fact quite the opposite. He begins to see himself as the greatest guy on Earth and just can’t shut up about it. He even starts thinking he’s too good for Veronica because she can’t keep up with him in the sack! Soon he is biting her head off for no reason, making wild claims and dragging home the biggest sluts in town.

Veronica did not sign up for this shit. In fact, didn’t she just get out of a relationship with a douche-bag? All signs point to drop the zero and eat a hero sandwich but Veronica is in love and she realizes that this pimply faced whack job is not her Seth! Rather than going on a shopping spree, starting a career as a hat designer or singing into a hairbrush she wisely takes a few of his gross back hairs to a lab and finds out he’s THE FLY!

Sadly, knowing the problem is not always the answer because Seth is on a downward spiral and acts more like THE FLY with each passing day. Hey ladies, grab a bunch of your gal pals and invite them to play “I’m out!” while watching THE FLY. As soon as Seth does something that you know you’d have to give him his walking papers for scream “I’m out!” Is it when those first back hairs appear? Is it when his ear falls off? Is it when he squirts puss out of his face onto the bathroom mirror? I say the “I’m out!” moment is when he vomits on a donut and then eats it. Many people see THE FLY as an allegory for AIDS or cancer, but I see it as an allegory for sharing a living space with your significant other. (I kid, Aunt John, but really, using your hands instead of a fork to get pickles out of a jar? That’s grody).

Veronica, as it turns out, is more understanding than the lot of us put together. Director DAVID CRONENBERG gets one of his biggest gross out moments just by showing her embracing Seth right after he does some sliming on himself. This really is a movie that requires love itself to put up or shut up. It dares love to quit. It requires love to be exactly what it boasts it is.

“I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over…and the insect is awake.”

When Seth dreamt he was a man, was he in fact dreaming that he could be capable of a relationship? Was he dreaming he could put himself in the vulnerable position of caring about somebody else? Is his awakening back to insect form the return to a life as a meticulous self sufficient emotion free drone? If you really think about it, it was the fear of losing Veronica that turned this poor guy into THE FLY. That’s what you get for being jealous.

DAVID CRONENBERG’s retelling of THE FLY is in a class all by itself. Besides single handedly justifying the existence of remakes in general, it somehow fuses classic fifties era monster movie tropes with squishy eighties era body horror all the while creating what has to be one of the most heart wrenching relationship films ever made. It is simply a true blue classic that works on several levels at once and seems not only to stand up to the test of time but become more potent with age.

Name That Trauma :: Reader Angela J. on a Spider Swallower


A friend turned me on to your site…it’s FABULOUS. So I wondered if you can help me. I have a fear of spiders, which I believe goes back to a scene in a movie I saw as a kid. It went something like this:

A woman is in her house, I think asleep or something, when she kind of becomes under the power of this voice. The voice tells her to go out to the barn, which she does. It tells her to lay up on this table, which she does. It tells her to open her mouth “wider.” “WIDER“, and when it’s wide enough, a tarantula drops into her mouth and we see the lump kind of go down into her throat. I have very little recollection of what occurred before or after that, but that one scene has, apparently, scarred me for life.

Any ideas on what this movie could’ve been?? I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, and I’m thinking this was definitely a ’70s era movie.

If you can help, that would be great, although I don’t know if I’ll have the guts to watch the movie, even if I do find out what it is. I thought if I watched BURNT OFFERINGS again as an adult, I’d get the image of the smiling undertaker out of my head, but NOPE, he’s JUST as scary now as he was then…

Thanks for listening!

UNK SEZ: Angela, you are speaking of one of my favorites, WES CRAVEN’s DEADLY BLESSING! This might not be one of Mr. CRAVEN‘s most successful outings, but with a cast that includes MAREN JENSEN, SHARON STONE, LISA HARTMAN, ERNEST BORGNINE, MICHAEL BERRYMAN and DOUGLAS BARR, as JOY BEHAR would say, “Who cares?” My older brother somehow snuck me into the theater to see this one way back in 1981 and it scared the hell out of me too! I’ll never forget the film’s crazy climax, which, as it turns out, was forced on CRAVEN by a studio who demanded a surprise ending no matter how little sense it made! DEADLY BLESSING is not currently available on DVD, but for now you can watch the whole thing on YouTube starting HERE!

Traumafessions :: MTV Hates Reader Carolyanne G.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my neighbor’s couch, watching MTV with her and her older brother (I was about six, she was about nine, and her brother was 19). We’d gathered around to watch the BRITTANY SPEARS video for “Lucky” (our favorite song), and were about to go off and play Barbies and leave her brother to his teenaged business when we heard a song that we both liked. It was the Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood.” We were both far too young to understand the drug induced lyrics, but liked the beat/tune and had been dancing to it in her room a few minutes beforehand.

The video started off with the band’s name being written across the screen, as some creepy laugh played in the background. It then went on to show cartoon people (avatars of the band members) singing. Innocent enough. All of a sudden, this creepy fat blue lightning Rastafarian man starts rapping. That got our attention right away. As the song goes on, the white background turns into a graveyard. Then, mid-song, this monkey arm shoots up from the ground, and the screen becomes filled with thousands of zombie apes, all marching to the beat of the song. I’m not sure if I remember correctly, but I think that the video ends with one of the adorable cartoon people kicking a zombie ape into outer space.

I didn’t sleep a wink that night, afraid that the zombie apes would take out my bedroom wall and squash me, and I refused to watch MTV until I turned thirteen.

MTV betrayed me AGAIN at age 14. A few of you may remember my traumafession about Happy Tree Friends. Well, the incident had terrified me so much that, all through puberty, I had a constant fear of coming across Happy Tree Friends on T.V./in a movie’s coming attractions. If I had even the faintest clue that there WAS an actual T.V. show right around that time, I don’t think I would have turned on the TV at all.

I was watching the morning wakeup countdown before going off to school, and the screen announced that the next video would be “The Carpal Tunnel of Love” by Fall Out Boy. This was during my Fall Out Boy phase that I refuse to speak of.

(AUNT JOHN SEZ: Umm, too late, you just told everyone.)

Well, you can imagine my joy when I found out that my television was about to deliver a song from their not yet released CD. That joy ended as soon as the video started. It was as if God was bitchslapping me through my TV, because staring back at me was a familiar yellow bunny, flirting with the little pink rodent that had haunted me for so long. Totally forgetting the fact that it was 5:30 am on a Monday morning, I screamed at the top of my lungs and hurled my cup of o.j. across the kitchen, fleeing to my bedroom and hiding under my covers. I didn’t stick around long enough to actually watch the video, but, needless to say, I didn’t watch MTV until I was SURE that nobody liked that song anymore.

Exorcist II: The Heretic

I’ve been seeing so many good movies lately that I’ve been scraping dangerously close to having a positive outlook on life. Knowing in my heart of hearts that my contentment is the first sign of the apocalypse, I decided to do us all a favor and sabotage myself before it starts raining frogs. What better film to throw my winning streak off the rails than the most hated sequel ever to come down the pike? I’m talking of course about JOHN BOORMAN’s loopy audience displeaser EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC. If this renowned stinker couldn’t shoot down my happy balloon what could?

The first and only time I had ever seen this movie I was a preteen KIM WILDE enthusiast at my cousin’s house and it was on their fancy pay cable channel. I was very into seeing it and very into it scaring the crap out of me. What I was not into was what actually ended up happing because I’m pretty sure I ended up with my face in a shag carpet fast asleep with a melted grape popsicle in my hand. How could a possession movie not scare a kid who was terrified of the red devil figure on the Underwood Deviled Ham can? (The answer to that question turns out to be very simple, just add tap dancing sequences, a hypnotic strobe light and a plethora of locusts).

Whatever the problem is with EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC it’s certainly not the cinematography, more often than not, this is a gorgeous looking film. Maybe not in a way that is particularly appropriate for an EXORCIST sequel, but arresting nonetheless. Visual effects artist ALBERT WHITLOCK shows his deft abilities on several occasions (a simple shot of an airplane in flight is stunning) so no complaints there. The soundtrack too, care of master ENNIO MORRICONE is well above par. So as the kids say, “Where’s the beef?” Well, it just so happens that everything else going on in this movie is absolutely flip your LIDSVILLE crazy. Some of its ideas are interesting (the concept of the more “good” you are, the more “evil” you attract at least explains why my lunch money was stolen throughout grade school), yet unless the goal was to drive the audience insane or into fits of laughter, it’s still a mystery how this apple fell so damn far from the tree.

Putting aside that the entire approach to the story is a bit of a snub to the original film’s fans and the fact that much of the dialogue, though thoughtful towards the metaphysical, doesn’t quite resemble human speech, let us now talk about the acting. What a cast huh? RICHARD BURTON, LOUISE FLETCHER, MAX VON SYDOW, JAMES EARL JONES and returning champ LINDA BLAIR, could you ask for anything more (I mean, besides ELLEN BURSTYN)?

Here is where the movie becomes either the worst atrocity you have ever seen or the most riveting display ever committed to film and it all depends on how drunk you are. I for one am convinced that bombastic BURTON at one point looked directly at the camera to tell the audience that what they were experiencing was “fascinating,” did I imagine that? Was that some kind of desperate plea to keep people in their seats? On the other end of the acting spectrum is LOUISE FLETCHER who can usually turn me to stone with a single cobra gaze but is inexplicably wishy-washy throughout this movie even while getting totally felt up by a demon. Then there is JAMES EARL JONES, well… give him a break he had to wear a locust hat. As far as our Miss BLAIR, well she fluctuates between a grinning Moonie any reasonable person would avoid at an airport and a frat house roofie victim. Only SYDOW escapes with dignity in tact and he’s playing the dead guy.

So needless to say as wretched as this movie is known to be, it in fact did not ruin my night! It was still a little boring in places, but as an adult I couldn’t wait to see what kind of craziness was around the corner. For better or for worse, BOORMAN certainly did his own thing. It was probably more of his ZARDOZ thing than his DELIVERANCE thing but at least you get the idea that somebody was behind the wheel (even as they are crashing into your flower bed). Is it a worthy successor to the EXORCIST? Oh, not by the longest stretch you could possibly imagine, but it is an oddity unto itself and as bizarre as they come. I don’t think it’s fair to call it the worst movie ever made, but I think it’s probably still O.K. to refer to it as the most disappointing sequel of all time (sorry GEORGE LUCAS). Maybe BURTON’s assessment was accurate after all, “fascinating” just about covers it. I would have preferred “scary” or “comprehensible” but I can’t be too harsh on any movie that sports a young, slightly buck toothed DANA PLATO.

NOTE: Can anything prepare a person for one of the most insane movies ever made? How about the most completely off the wall trailer ever made? Careful, it’s addictive!

And perhaps even more addictive is this little number…

Traumafessions :: Reader Harmonyfb on Giant Spiders, Sir Cecil Creep & Night Gallery

Ah, memories. Let me start by saying that I love scary movies, and always have, which makes my own kindertraumas even more amusing.

One of my earliest traumatic memories was watching a black and white movie about giant invading spiders (I think it was ‘Invasion of the Giant Spiders’, but I’ve never been able to verify). In one scene, there’s a toddler in a playpen in the front yard of a house while the spiders invade. People are running and shrieking, the town’s on fire, the toddler is *screaming*, and NOBODY IS COMING to save it. I think I was about 4 years old, and that scared the beejezus out of me.

AUNT JOHN SEZ: I believe the movie you are thinking of is the 1958 chestnut EARTH VS. THE SPIDER, or THE SPIDER as it is also known. THE SPIDER trailer is kind of dull, so let’s take a gander at the greatness of the trailer for 1975’s THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION:

Sorry for the interruption, please continue Harmonyfb:

At six, I used to hide behind the couch any time ads for “Sir Cecil Creep” (our local scary movie host) came on TV.

When I was 8 or 9, I developed a love of TWILIGHT ZONE repeats and NIGHT GALLERY first-runs. One NIGHT GALLERY episode scared me so badly that I still occasionally have nightmares about it. It was about a painter who winds up with his face permanently morphed into the ‘op art’ painting he’s been working on. Notice I have no idea what the actual plot was – it was the image that was burned into my tender psyche. Someday I’m going to have to find a copy of this episode.

AUNT JOHN SEZ: I just combed through the exhaustive NIGHT GALLERY guide, and didn’t see anything about an op-ed artist with a Cubist face. Could have it been a TWILIGHT ZONE episode?

Traumafessions :: Reader FatherOfTears on Star Trek eps. “The Empath” & “The Lights of Zetar”

O.K., growing up as a kid in the early ‘70s the local T.V. stations in Jersey showed reruns of the original STAR TREK. Like many other elementary-school-aged kids at that time, I became hooked. I even got that cool toy bridge set with the action figures-including Uhura, but in time I broke the spinning transporter that made the figure placed inside “vanish.” So I wound up getting rid of the whole set and then, decades later, I was told that it was worth a lot of money. That’s an adult trauma! However, seeing this show did give some childhood scares. There was that “Empath” episode where Kirk, Bones & Spock were taken by aliens and left in a room with a mute female who was an empath. She could absorb the injuries of those she touched healing the victim while temporally getting the ailment till she healed herself. When Bones is tortured and brought back, she absorbs his injuries and winds up getting his facial wounds. She gets a pained expression on her face which was a bit hard to look at:

Then there was “The Lights of Zetar” where Scotty’s new love interest Mira, becomes possessed by the life forms of an alien race that look like flashing lights. The flashing lights were not the scare, it was when they entered a person. The crew found what was left of a planetary settlement and a near death woman who had the Zetars in her. Her possession was shown by having her face “solarized” and when the aliens first try to speak through the person, it’s all slow and garbled.

The same would happen to Mira plus when she was taken over she was slumped against a wall. She had her head bent at a funny angle while the Zetars spoke through her.

Pretty scary for an under ten year old! Get this: Kirk decided to put the possessed Mira in a pressurized “hyperbolic chamber” to kill the Zetars. Decades later Michael Jackson and the 1993-94 Vancouver Canucks would make headlines with such a device! Oh, the authors for this episode: JEREMY TARCHER and his wife SHARI LEWIS.