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.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
13 years ago

This is absolutely one of my all-time favorite horror films because it is, essentially, a chamber-film about the deepest, darkest horrors of the human condition. When things go so bad, when one looses ones self so much, that there can be no return- only oblivion.

13 years ago

Unkle Lancifer, I just don’t think the word grody is used as much as it use to. I am going to start saying it more often. Thanks for reminding me about one of my favorite words from the 80s. Oh yeah, the review is great as well.

aunt john
13 years ago

I had just washed my hands, b.t.w.

Tommy V
13 years ago

I am renting it again. It’s been years. One of my favorites.

And yeah, I take the pickles out with my hand. Doesn’t all that pickle juice kill any germs?

Plus, of course, I live alone. No one bitches.

Pax Romano
13 years ago

Oh how I lusted after Jeff Goldblum’s Seth Brundle … well, until his teeth and body parts started falling out.

12 years ago

I commented on “The Blob”, so how could I not lavish my adoration on the other great 50’s movie/80’s remake? This one is definitely the superior of the two, though. Hands down. Love the private parts in the medicine cabinet bit…

11 years ago

I saw The Fly at the cinema when it came out and loved it. I still have it on VHS (in the big puffy boxes they used to come in in the 80s) but the ending is so damned SAD I can barely bring myself to watch it.
Best bit? Arm wrestling in the bar *CRRRACK!*

11 years ago

I remember my older brother taking me to see this when I was 13; still my all-time favorite science fiction film & a heart-breaking romantic tragedy…

Eric Eddy
10 years ago

I’ve always loved this movie, but I never realized how emotionally invested you can get into it as an adult. It really is a tragic love story which seems so out of place for a Sci-Fi/Horror film, but it just works so damn well. I am always saddened by the ending as well.