(director/writer: David Cronenberg; screenwriters: short story by George Langelaan/Charles Edward Pogue; cinematographer: Mark Irwin; editor: Ronald Sanders; music: Howard Shore/Nile Rodgers, song “Help Me”; cast: Jeff Goldblum (Seth Brundle), Geena Davis (Veronica Quaife), John Getz (Stathis Borans), Joy Boushel (Tawny), Les Carlson (Dr. Cheevers) George Chuvalo (Marky); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Stuart Cornfeld; Fox Video; 1986)

“It left me itching for something less warped to identify with than a human fly.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

David Cronenberg (“Dead Ringers”/”Videodrome”/”Shivers”) directs and cowrites with Charles Edward Pogue this considerably more gruesome updated remake of the classic hokum sci-fi film called The Fly (1958), which might buzz more loudly for the less squeamish and those that find a philosophical connection in the identity crisis constructed. It adds on more visual pastiche and gloss, and a satisfyingly strong emotional performances by Jeff Goldblum and a less satisfying but still acceptable one by Geena Davis as the befuddled doomed lovers. The director steers it away as much as possible from its illogical horror story (not suitable for modern times) and redirects it into more of a literary denouement like Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915), but still keeping it gross and pulpish. Chris Walas won an Oscar for Special Effects.

It opens at a science conference where hot looking science journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) is asking geek scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), “What are you working on?” He vainly replies, “I’m working on something that will change the world and human life as we know it!” But this is just not a line to get into her pants, but for the last six years is the sole driving force of Seth–hoping his experiment on fusion will change how things and people will be transported. Back in the lab Seth, filled with hubris, demonstrates his life’s secret work to the good looking stranger. Using one of the lady’s nylon stockings, he shows how his invention of the teleportation machine works. Veronica betrays his innocent trust and reports this to her sleazy rat editor and ex-boyfriend, Stathis Borans (John Getz), who discounts the experiment as a con man’s magic trick until he does a reference check to discover the scientist is brilliant and might really be on to something big. The ambitious lady, looking for the big story of her career, returns to the lab, where Seth talks her into moving in with him to get exclusive rights to pen a book about his experiment when he fixes the problem of making it work on humans. The two begin a hot affair, but on the night they are to celebrate that he’s ironed out all the bugs he has a jealous fit that she spend their celebration time with the editor and while drunk tries the experiment on himself not realizing a fly was in the booth. Though the teleportation is successful and Seth now exhibits tremendous strength and stamina, he soon realizes that he’s fused with the fly that was trapped in his device and he’s now rapidly changing into a hybrid human/fly with no way out of this mess.

There’s no black veil covering mad scientist Seth like in the one covering the head of the mad scientist turned into a fly in the original. Instead we see a graphic and repulsive Seth spewing out a milky deadly vomit, trying desperately not to leave the human world and to retain the pregnant Veronica, the love of his life, whom he tries to talk out of aborting the fly-fetus she may be carrying and live together as one united family. The ending is strangely missing any tension like in the original, where there was a deeper love connection between the more traditional couple than momentary lust. Here the concern deepens only over the sadness of loss, the idea of being deformed and alone in such a cruel world, and the puzzling over the connection of body with identity. It covers Cronenberg’s usual theme of “body horror.” This might be the ultimate fly film for casual lovers with growing issues over tying the knot, freaks of nature experiencing an identity crisis and lustful nerdy techies, but it left me itching for something less warped to identify with than a human fly.