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THE FLY COLLECTION

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, March 6, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: When I was a boy the original colorful horror yarn ‘The Fly’ (1958) terrified me, and in my estimation it remains a fine golden-oldie classic. I was less enthused about the two black-and-white sequels, ‘Return of the Fly’ (1959) and ‘Curse of the Fly’ (1965), and ditto the very gory and gooey remakes, ‘The Fly’ (1986) and ‘The Fly II’ (1989). But if you love the franchise, The Shout! Factory has just the deal for you, a new five-film Blu-ray box set, ‘The Fly Collection.’ I reviewed the latter two films for the Deseret News on Aug. 17, 1986, and Feb. 12, 1989, respectively.

The Fly (1986): If you have seen John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” you have seen perhaps the second-worst gross-out movie ever. Until you’ve seen “The Fly,” you haven’t seen the worst gross-out movie ever.

Well, that’s not really true. You have to discount all the really gory slice-‘em, dice-‘em slasher pictures to say that. But there’s no question that “The Fly” is certainly this season’s prime stomach-churner.

And that’s too bad, because “The Fly” is in many ways a superior science-fiction thriller that fans of the genre may enjoy.

You certainly have to get through a lot of glop and goo, and blood and guts to get there, though. To quote star Jeff Goldblum at one point: “That’s disgusting, isn’t is?”

The film is, of course, a remake of the 1950s creature-feature of the same title.

In both films the lead character is a scientist experimenting with teleportation, the transferring of an object — or person — from one chamber to another, with an eye toward revolutionizing transportation.

In the original film, a housefly accidentally got into the chamber when the scientist was experimenting on himself, causing him to come out with the head and arm of a fly, while the little buzzer had the head and arm of the scientist.

     

       Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, 'The Fly' (1986)

This remake, however, has more of a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” or werewolf tone to it, as the scientist comes out of the chamber perfectly normal — or so he seems. But then he begins to take on gradual characteristics of a fly until it seems he will eventually turn into one completely.

That process, and his fly-like traits, lead to co-screenwriter/director David Cronenberg’s favorite pastime — grossing out the audience.

His most recent film, “The Dead Zone,” was a very tame one for him. He is better known for the exploding heads in “Scanners” and such other, ahem, visceral delights as “Videodrome,” “The Brood” and the ever-popular “Rabid.”

With “The Fly” he’s back to relying on special effects but he’s also learned character development and storytelling techniques that enhance the film greatly. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for the scientist who is undergoing this hideous transformation, and the woman who has come to love him.

There is also a sense of humor operating here, and there are as many laugh-provoking moments as scary ones. (And the performances, cinematography and musical score are very good.)

But just when it seems the film has settled into a mode of fright, humor and sympathy, Cronenberg tries to send us scurrying for the nearest barf bag, building more and more with each ensuing scene full of goo.

There is an audience for this sort of thing, of course. And, again, there is much about this movie I admired. But it goes a bit too far for my taste so you get only a moderate recommendation from this corner.

“The Fly” is rated R for violence and gore, as well as sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity.

     

The Fly II: “Son of the Fly” would have been as accurate a title as “The Fly II,” or perhaps it could have been “I Was a Teenage Fly,” since this sequel is essentially the same tale told again with the only new twist being teen angst as a catalyst.

Those who helped make “The Fly” the enormous success that it was will have to take the blame for this sequel as it has obviously been made for no reason other than to cash in on the first film’s popularity.

David Cronenberg’s remake of the ’50s sci-fi/horror classic “The Fly” offered some wonderful touches that made it much better than the average horror movie. Jeff Goldblum’s sensitive, intelligent performance gave the audience an incredibly complex character in transition, and the movie benefited form a wry sense of humor and Cronenberg’s horrific, slightly offbeat and certainly gory vision.

“The Fly II,” however, is very simplistic, takes itself far too seriously and has a vision influenced by far too many other horror movies. The gore quotient is about the same, but the last half hour sinks into a “Friday the 13th” motif by way of “Alien.”

You may recall that Cronenberg’s “The Fly” ended with Goldblum’s lover Geena Davis having a nightmare that she gives birth to a larva instead of a baby, and when she awakens the end of the film is ambiguous about what indeed she will give birth to.

The sequel opens with the birth, and her nightmare comes true. But Mom dies on the table before she can see that inside this larva is a human baby. So the child grows up in a sterile laboratory environment at Bartok Industries, where mad scientist Bartok (Lee Richardson) “adopts” him. Five years later the child, due to an accelerated growth pattern, becomes an adult (Eric Stoltz), and Bartok puts him to work on his father’s experiments with the transporter pods.

     

       Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, 'The Fly II' (1989)

Working late nights the young man meets up with a night-shift computer programmer (Daphne Zuniga) and they fall in love. At about this time his long-dormant fly genetic makeup begins to surface, causing him to look more and more like his father at the end of the first film.

One of the irritating things about “The Fly II” is that every character is a cartoon and there are no decent human beings in the bunch, save Stoltz and Zuniga. Everyone else is rude, angry or mean, leading to the obvious conclusion that all businessmen, doctors, scientists and security guards are cruel people.

The extremely silly script is by no less than four screenwriters and first-time director Chris Walas leaves nothing to the imagination — when a man has his fingers bitten off by a mutant dog, we see the hand in close-up.

But Walas, the Oscar-winning special-effects expert for the first film, also uses no imagination in building suspense and develops no interesting characterizations. His movie is technically correct but morally corrupt and hollow.

“The Fly II” is rated R for violence, sex, nudity and profanity.