For this new regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly will be reporting back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. Hellraiser didn't seem to affect him much, so I was starting to doubt his sensitivity. Time to bring in the big guns:
To provide a bit of context for this review: just before the movie began, I popped a rhubarb cobbler into the oven. My idea of a good film involves the preparation and consumption of baked goods.
Cronenberg’s The Fly started with its fair share of hurdles to jump. As with Hellraiser, it had the misfortune of being made in the 1980s, a time when, like a proud-maned lion, one's power was asserted through the overall size of one’s hair. As well, it is a remake of a classic and an icon in its own right, and I thus already possessed knowledge of the general plot and several key scenes. With these supposed disadvantages in mind, I hit play on my DVD player, secure in the belief that I could happily consume a warm dessert during the next hour and a half.
The opening scenes upheld my lowered expectations. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum, all styling mousse and shoulder pads, launched onto the screen without introduction, chatting benignly for only moments before jetting off to his apartment. In a modern-day fiction (or fact, for that matter), a woman brought to a strange man’s back-alley residence would escape with a torn dress and an STD if she escaped at all. In this movie, she got a breakthrough news story. Then again, the reveal of Goldblum’s scientific discovery was no reveal at all to the audience, so this haste was forgiven.
From here, the movie slowed. I’ll admit to having to put my fork down momentarily when they accidentally inverted the babboon. But that was over quickly, and otherwise I was mostly looking at a lazily-paced romance between our two stars, with John Getz as an imbalanced ex-lover thrown in to raise the level of conflict just beyond benign. Even when the long-anticipated teleportation finally occurred, I was provided not with the shock of a fly-headed man-menace, but a new, leanly muscled Jeff Goldblum. I can totally eat cobbler while watching him do gymnastics.
Here’s where things began to get dicey for me. Goldblum’s physique came loaded with an intensely erratic new mind, and his beady-eyed mood swings were beginning to unsettle me. His initial physical improvements were rapidly undermined as well. It seemed only vaguely unwelcome, though: I know lots of people with blotchy skin and back hair. Then, just when I was wondering what adult onset acne had to do with insect DNA, his ear fell right off into his hand. He, Geena Davis, and I shared a moment of stunned silence; they then conversed in a contained panic while I noticed for the first time how gory cooked rhubarb looks. Bit by bit, Brundlefly began to rip off his human vestiges, and bit by bit I began to regret having eaten at all that entire day.
I was granted a brief respite during Geena Davis’ pregnancy scare (mostly, I was shocked by how frankly the script tackled the subject of abortion, but that’s a topic for another review). I'd already heard about her maggot dream, so while it was gross, it wasn’t unexpected. What I didn’t see coming was Jeff Goldblum’s Kool-Aid Man impersonation, but the initial shock of his entrance wore off quickly. (Do flies do that, by the way? Shouldn’t he have just rammed against the glass over and over and over and over again?) Still, I was reluctant to pick my cobbler back up.
That’s when the final scene showed up and ruined my whole day. Oh dear God, he’s vomiting acid onto that man’s hand. Still! He’s still doing it! And now his foot! Listen to the screams! Will this never end? OH SHIT HE’S FALLING APART! WHAT THE FUCK IS INSIDE OF HIM? THAT’S HIDEOUS!! JESUS CHRIST! UN-COBBLER!!! ABORT!!! ABORT!!!
Seriously, that was messed up. Props to whoever designed the effects for the last ten minutes of the film, because they accomplished the impossible and made me wish that I was watching someone pull off his own fingernails again instead. The amount of creative awfulness packed into that finale clearly demonstrates why you horror fans have given The Fly its place in the pantheon must-see movies. Even I can understand the attraction. I’d recommend it to anyone with an empty stomach.
Next week: Hellbound: Hellraiser II