Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The Fly – My thoughts on a genre classic 31 years on.

This Fly is undoubtedly one of the benchmarks in modern horror, to this day it still holds the capacity to shock and disgust in equal measure and serves as a cautionary tale, particularly in these times of rapid advancement in the fields of technology, as to the pitfalls of trying to play god.

Loosely based on the 1957 George Langelann short story & 1958 Vincent Price film of the same name, David Cronenberg’s take on The Fly was a very different beast altogether from these previous, comparatively tame adaptations. Taking little more than the concept, Cronenberg moved to much darker places with his story, a tale of body horror & science gone terribly wrong and also, as observed in some critical circles, serving as an allegory of the AIDS epidemic of the mid-80’s, though Cronenberg attests this was not his intention, he say it was an analogy of disease and more primly, the fear of ageing and death itself.

Superbly acted by Jeff Goldblum & Geena Davis, Goldblum’s transformation during the film elicits both disgust and sympathy, even as he starts to lose his mind along with his body parts and becomes consumed by his new abilities and instincts whilst losing almost all semblance of his humanity. It is up there with the all time great movie monster performances because like all the greats that sense of sympathy is felt despite the monstrous acts they perform.

The Fly is a movie that has aged very well in the interceding three decades since its release. The practical effects work and make up by Chris Walas on the film, so good that it made The Fly an Oscar winner, still stands as an intimidating benchmark of excellence even today when the go to answer seems to more often be CGI. The Howard Shore score remains a genre favourite and you have only to hear the tagline “Be afraid, be very afraid” to know exactly what film is being referenced. It’s mere existence and the continued sense of reverence that follows it adds credence to the fact that not all remakes are a bad idea when executed with due care and attention, I would even say The Fly is most certainly a remake that far exceeds the original work by not dumbing itself down and speaking to its audience on multiple levels.

The Fly spawned a vastly inferior sequel in 1989 that is better left forgotten it was so awful, it however did nothing to tarnish the image of the 1986 film. The Fly was a brave, bold and fiercely creative piece of future shock fiction that captured the minds & hearts of a generation of horror fans and I am utterly convinced that it will continue to do so for the next 30 years and beyond.


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