The Fly Midnight Movie Review
By Bret Dorman
If, or (if my mom is reading this) when I have kids, one of the ‘big questions’ I am going to have to ask myself is, what movies/shows do I want to pass on to my kid?
I know my kid will want to watch the stuff of his/her generation. I don’t know what Wizards of Waverly Place or Ben 10 are, but I know I wouldn’t want my kid going into elementary School already a pretentious snob. “Wizards/Ben 10? No I don’t watch that… childish dribble. But I do know The Muppet Show is great. What’s that? You don’t know who Kermit is? Blasphemy!”
The local video store that we had use to have a deal, 4 Movies 4 Nights 4 Dollars. Sometimes when my Dad, brother, and I would go we would always try to pick out a theme. Aboott and Costello night. Godzilla Night. Classic Horror Movie night. Even though movies like The Mummy, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman were a little before my time, they still had a certain classic reputation about them.
If it weren’t for my Dad renting these movies and passing them along, I would have never seen something like The Fly, with Vincent Price. A silly sci-fi movie with a concept ahead of its time and a gimmicky way to create another entry into the Classic Movie Monster World.
Flash forward to sometime inbetween my Senior Year of High School and my first or second year of College. I was deciding to take film more seriously, way more seriously, had Netflix, and a whole new way to find out about movies I should be watching… The Internet and its many, many lists and forums.
My Dad passed on The Fly (1958) to me but it was the Film Lover Community online that passed on, like some mutant offspring of that Classic, the dark and bleak remake that is David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986).The Story: Seth Brundle (a perfect Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist who is on the brink of inventing something that will change the world as we know it. He invites journalist Veronica (the Goddess Geena Davis) to study and interview him as he completes the invention: a Telepod. Soon after seemingly successfully teleporting himself through the Telepod he realizes something went wrong… that there may have been something else in the Pod with him… Also, there is a Baboon.
The Fly opens like most movies, with an opening credit sequence. But Howard Shore’s music acts like an Overture. There is an impending sense of doom right from the beginning. Even the title ‘The Fly’ has a certain ominous vibe. After the credits end on ‘Directed by David Cronenberg’ we see a close up. Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle. He is going to change the world as we know it. Poor Seth Brundle…
Immediately, before we know the characters, Seth and Veronica are hitting it off. Geena Davis matches Goldblum on every level. She is as geeky pretty as he is nerdy handsome. Her humor compliments his. And it doesn’t hurt that the tall and intimidating Goldlum doesn’t have to look down and out size his romantic interest, for Davis is just as tall and intimidating.
Cronenberg isn’t interested in making a ‘normal’ movie. He doesn’t set up his characters the ‘normal’ way having them both be introduced in two separate scenes revealing their quirks and wants; rather plunging them right into the middle of a conversation and strange mutual attraction. He doesn’t shoot the movie in a ‘normal’ way by letting scenes develop naturally or telling you where you are; rather he plunges you into the middle of action or events and besides Veronica’s boss Stathis’ office I don’t think there really is an establishing shot in the movie. He isn’t interested in ‘normal’ movie scenes put into the movie just to pad time; rather the run time is pretty short at 96 minutes, but it is all a very intimate portrait of Brundle, Davis, and Stathis.As the movie starts out not… ‘normal’, but subdued with an eerie presence of dread automatically in the air, the viewer is put on edge after The Big Event. We know that Brundle is now part fly… but no one else knows. Soon the movie lets the obscenities and vulgarities loose with the same verisimilitude as the science talk before it. The first act we are genuinely intrigued by the science of how to make this Telepod work. The Second act we are genuinely intrigued by how these three characters are dealing with the unknown.
The third act is a true tour-de-force of filmmaking, yet it all plays out with the same pace and perspective of the two acts before it. The obscenities and vulgarities turn into deformities and monstrosities. From the perspective of the viewer The Fly is a constant, straight line (not an arc) up in terms of engagement and curiosity. We know something bad will happen, but not quite what or how. From the perspective of the characters the movie is a constant, straight line down as one minor mistake turns into a complete breakdown of the mind and body.
There is a moment near the end of The Fly where Brundle pleads with Veronica to leave. Its a self sacrificing sort of scene that’s in every self-made monster movie. But the way Brundle is able to communicate his… and the fly’s thoughts while not making any sense and we cut to Davis who has a sheer look of horror and sorrow on her face, it might actually be enough to move some people in a way most horror movies don’t. As horror fans we applaud the gore and special effects and cheesy lines, but rarely do we applaud the moments that actually have an impact on us. Brundle was out to change the world, but instead he only changed himself.
Why You Must See It At Midnight: As I think about the movies I want to pass on to my kid(s)… Milo and Otis, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Short Circuit I also must ask myself what movies do I want to support as ‘The Classics”. The movies that will stand the test of time not just because they are good, but because Film Lovers tell everyone else they are good.
All I can say is The Music Box Theatre and its Midnight Movie program is a great place to start. Not counting Thursday releases of new movies, A theater doesn’t just play movies at Midnight because its fun or profitable. They play them because they are the ones you must see in a theater to get the full experience and to share with others.
Music Box Theatre, by playing The Fly this Friday and Saturday at Midnight is telling you, this is a must see. And I’m telling you… Be afraid. Be very Afraid.