The Fly (1986) dir. David Cronenberg
Like many of the best horror films, The Fly builds slowly. Not much happens during the first half hour. Boy meets girl, they awkwardly flirt, and we check the back of the DVD case to make sure this is a horror film.
We know what’s coming, and Cronenberg makes us wait for it. He keeps the titular fly in the back of the story, just as Hitchcock kept his birds away from the focal point. The audience is going to be thinking about the fly or the birds anyway, so there’s no reason to be obvious about it.
When I was a kid, there was this series of books about a school where supernatural creatures would show up and everyone would slowly start to figure out what they were. Stuff like Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots. The book would always assume you would be very surprised when new evidence for Mrs. Jeepers’s vampirism turned up, imagining that you hadn’t read the title of the book.
But as Jeff Goldblum transforms, The Fly quickly skirts through the necessary “Oh wow, these are insect hairs! I wonder what could be going on!” scenes, and gets right to the good stuff – horrifying us with Cronenberg’s vision of what a man turning into a fly would look like.
Mutants and half-human creatures have become a Hollywood staple during the past 10 years, but not in the horror genre. Usually, they’re played by underwear models wearing too much foundation. That’s how Goldblum imagines Brundlefly at first. But Brundlefly is not Spider-Man.
The Fly is #567 on the 2012 edition of the TSPDT 1,000 list I’m blogging through. I’ve now seen 426.