The Fly Blu-ray Review


Written by Chris Shamburger

Blu-ray released by 20th Century Fox

Click on images to enlarge.

 

Directed by David Cronenberg
Written by Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg and George Langelaan (short story)
1986, Region A, 95 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 9th, 2007

Starring:
Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle
Geena Davis as Veronica Quaife
John Getz as Stathis Borans

Review:

David Cronenberg's The Fly is a rarity of its genre: a remake of a cheesy monster movie — itself adapted from a short story — that manages to be as effectively moving as it is horrifying. To say it trumps its source material is a given, but it's also one of the most unusually beautiful and tragic horror films ever made.

The original The Fly, about a scientist who mutates into — you guessed it — a housefly, starred Vincent Price and contained lines like, "She killed a human with a fly head." While the setup is generally the same here, you won't find a man walking around with a Styrofoam fly-shaped head. Instead, co-writer/director David Cronenberg opts for authenticity, treating his story and characters with the utmost realism and respect. It's why the movie works as well as it does, and something more horror films in this self-referential age would benefit from.

Jeff Goldblum plays Seth Brundle, a scientist on the brink of a brilliant invention. Using two pods attached by sixteen feet of cables, he's created a teleportation system that can send anything from one pod to the next through empty space. After successfully teleporting a live baboon, Seth impulsively steps into one of the pods to transport himself. What he doesn't see is a tiny fly sneak in behind him.

While the transportation appears successful at first, Seth's journalist girlfriend, Veronica (Geena Davis), begins to notice his strange new behavior and unusual hairs sprouting from his body. From there, the film pulls out all the stops, unblinking in Seth's gruesome descent from man to monster as his world-and his body-literally falls apart.

Because the film is separated into three acts and genres (romance, as Seth and Veronica build a relationship during the invention process; fantasy, as Seth discovers his newfound abilities after being transported; and horror, as Seth's body betrays him and inevitably mutates with the fly), Cronenberg smartly spends adequate time building his characters and their connections with each other. Had he immediately delved into the horror without developing the people experiencing it, the film would fall flat.

Jeff Goldblum inhabits the complex role of Seth Brundle with ease. The talkative, twitchy, and ultimately doomed antihero could've been cartoony in the wrong hands, but Goldblum, in the performance of his career, makes him likable and sympathetic, even when he succumbs to the insect's killer instincts. Geena Davis, Goldblum's real-life girlfriend at the time, admirably carries the role viewers will relate to most, as her character objectively witnesses Seth's downfall and must make the choice to stay or run. John Getz also makes an impact as the antagonist Stathis, Veronica's editor and ex-boyfriend, who becomes the only person that might be able to help.

The film's practical special effects still hold up wonderfully. From the decaying Seth spitting out teeth, to his fingernails falling off one by one, Cronenberg unflinchingly captures the various stages of Seth's decomposition until the man behind the monster is hardly recognizable. Even FX-free scenes, like Seth crawling up the wall and across the ceiling, work marvelously because of the sheer simplicity behind them.

One of the high points of the genre, The Fly received rave reviews upon its release, grossed more than $40 million domestically, and even snagged an Oscar at the 1987 awards ceremony. One could say The Fly is a template for how to do a remake. George Langelaan may have thought up the story, but David Cronenberg knew how to tell it. And sometimes a fresh voice is all it takes.

Click on images to enlarge.

Video and Audio:

 

The Fly makes its high-definition debut on a 50GB dual-layered disc. The film is presented in anamorphic 1:85:1 widescreen, with an AVC encoded image in 1080p. Although being one of the earlier entries in the Blu-ray disc format, this one impresses. Scratches and artifacts are practically nonexistent, although you'll still catch a glimpse of the occasional speck. The film's dark color palette is naturally heightened by a healthy dose of grain, retaining its filmic source. The picture quality really shines in its special effects sequences, where the details and intricacies of the makeup really jump off the screen. There a few brief moments where the picture seems out-of-focus-the first establishing shot of the party is especially soft-but the better part of the movie looks more than acceptable.

Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The lossless sound gives the film plenty of breathing room, and composer Howard Shore fills it to the max. His robust, operatic score-one of the most underrated of the genre-powerfully kicks off the film during the otherwise bland opening credits, giving the system a nice workout. But even when the music takes a backseat and the film quiets down for its characters, the quality doesn't stop. Golblum's soft-spoken but fast-talking character is easy to understand, and background noise finds a right medium between absent and overwhelming. Howard Shore gives the movie its punch, but for the most part, Cronenberg has crafted a film that shows restraint, and the audio does a fine job presenting both ends of the spectrum.

Click on images to enlarge.

Special Features:

 

  • Commentary by Director David Cronenberg
  • The Brundle Museum of Natural History Featurette
  • Fear of the Flesh: The Making of The Fly
  • Trivia Track
  • Search Content
  • Personal Scene Selections
  • The Fly BD-J Flyswatter Game
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes
  • Film Test Footage
  • Promotional Featurettes
  • Original Teaser, Trailers, and TV Spots


The Blu-ray's excellent special features have been imported from the 2005 Collector's Edition DVD, including the extraordinary, must-see Fear of the Flesh documentary, which runs a whopping 136 minutes (or 162 minutes with the enhanced features!). But we also get some cool new stuff, like a trivia track that plays over the feature film.

The disc also comes with an original, but passable, Fly Zapper game. Like the trivia track, it plays over the length of the film, but unlike that feature, this one is only interesting for about a minute.

Finally, the Blu-ray comes with personal scene selections and search content features. You pick your favorite scenes, then watch them in order. Or you can look up different terms like "abortion clinic" and "medicine cabinet," and it'll show you the exact moments they appear in the movie.

 

Click on images to enlarge.

Grades:

 

Movie: 4 Stars
Video: 4 Stars
Audio: 2.5 Stars
Features: 4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars

Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the HorrorTalk Review Forum.

 

© 2010 HorrorTalk.com. No use of this review is permitted without expressed permission from HorrorTalk.com.

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