As the final weeks of Spooky Season screech ever closer, let’s get in touch with our own grotesque transformations through an October essential – David Cronenberg’s 1986 body horror tragedy The Fly.
Light on traditional supernatural thrills, The Fly probes existential fears of fragility, disease, and corrupted flesh. Jeff Goldblum stars as eccentric scientist Seth Brundle, who impulsively tests his experimental teleportation pods on himself. But tragedy strikes when a fly enters the pod, merging their DNA into an increasingly aberrant fusion subject.
Cronenberg wrings excruciating tension from Brundle’s gradual metamorphosis into Brundlefly. We recoil yet sympathize as Seth watches pieces of his humanity monstrously shed, all while forging a doomed romance with journalist Veronica (Geena Davis). Their tender courtship set against the ticking mutation clock makes for devastating drama.
The Fly joins classics like The Thing in examining paranoia surrounding bodily integrity. Cronenberg focuses his visceral style on the duplicitous fragility of skin, tissue and bone. Seth’s grotesque physical unraveling externalizes his deeper existential crisis in ways only body horror can. Like all Cronenberg’s biological fears, The Fly resonates deeply thanks to profound sadness beneath the gore.
And the Oscar-winning makeup effects remain legendary, with Brundle’s successive stages of insectoid transformation among the great monster designs. Peeling face masks presaged the coming AIDS crisis in the public consciousness. Behind The Fly’s ick-factor lies tragedy of self and beauty lost.
So as you analyze your own October metamorphoses, appreciate Cronenberg’s sad mutate fable for its sophisticated marriage of scares, sympathy, and stomach-churning style. Just be wary of any teleporter pods offering shortcuts to enlightenment. As The Fly warns, such transcendence comes at a cost…