Month of Terror: The Fly

It’s back! Thank God for October. I was on a George Cukor kick, and with all that charming banter, those adorable outcomes, and those encouraging representations of gender, I was getting pretty blood-thirsty.

So, to recap: the rules of the game are simple. Scott and I watch at least one horror film every day in the month of October. It sounds easy, but trust me, when the only horror movie you have on hand is Poltergeist 3, it’s 2:00 a.m., and you just got back from the Dr. Dog/Jolie Holland show, you’re going to be regretting that Month of Terror commitment. Big time.

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Luxurious hair.

We started off the month with Cronenberg’s The Fly: A movie so good, we watched it twice. Or, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

For me, The Fly has to be one of the most tragic, sympathetic horror films out there. Seth Brundle starts as a geeky-but-slightly-handsome physicist just trying to change the world. And get laid. Unfortunately, Brudle can’t really deal with the pressures of a relationship (not with his baboons, but with an actual human being) and accidently turns himself into BrundleFly.

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Stage One: Fly Acne.

It turns out there are some good things associated with being genetically spliced with a housefly. For one thing, you can walk on walls. Yes, your fingernails all fall off, but you also can have marathon sex with Geena Davis. You have immense strength, a sweet tooth that sustains you, and you think at a mile a minute. Unfortunately, you completely deteriorate until you become unable to express your emotions, including your love for Ms. Davis.

Largely regarded as a metaphor for the horror of AIDS (Brundle “contracts” his “disease” only after finally finding a sexual partner), Cronenberg denies this claim and insists that the film is about dying and disease in general. As his girlfriend watches on, Brundle is wasting away from disease, and the two – as a couple – have to learn to with all the stages (both physiological and psychological) of that disease.

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Stage Two: Regurgitation Digestion. Delicious.

Like all Cronenberg films, The Fly incorporates a delightful amount of disgust with the male body. The admiration Cronenberg has for Goldblum’s body is evident in the film, but is also made abundantly clear in his commentary. Goldblum was able to perform many of his stunts himself, and his shiny muscles are often on display. But that seems to make it all the more for fun Cronenberg to slowly deteriorate that body, turning Goldblum into a mass of sticky flesh. It is the “excitation of the flesh” that finally does Brundle in.

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Stage Three: BrundleFly.

“You’re afraid to dive into the plasma pool, aren’t you? You’re afraid to be destroyed and recreated, aren’t you? I’ll bet you think that you woke me up about the flesh, don’t you? But you only know society’s straight line about the flesh. You can’t penetrate beyond society’s sick, gray, fear of the flesh. Drink deep, or taste not, the plasma spring! Y’see what I’m saying? And I’m not just talking about sex and penetration. I’m talking about penetration beyond the veil of the flesh! A deep penetrating dive into the plasma pool!”

Penetrating the flesh (with a phallus, presumably) is exactly what Seth has done when he merges his DNA with a fly, and his God-like use of the phallus turns his own flesh…wrong. When Brundle penetrates further (literally. sex.) Geena Davis is infected by his masculinity with her pregnancy.

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Stage Four: BrundleFly spliced with a teleporter.

It’s also interesting to me that the males in her life are entirely ineffectual against the disease. Her ex-boyfriend/boss is acid-barfed on and barely manages to save her, her doctor fails to give her the abortion she wants/needs, and Brundlefly…well, he’s just a hot mess. In the end, Davis is the only one who successfully wields the phallus in the form of a gun blowing off Brundleflyteleporter’s head.

Anyway…those are just some ideas. I need to go back and read up on my Cronenberg criticism. That guy’s nuts.

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And Goldblum the way he might want to be remembered.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Month of Terror: The Fly

  1. i’ve only seen bits of the fly, but love earlier c-berg. i do remember this book by katherine hayles about post-humanism and she spent a few pages talking about issues of embodiment in (virtual) reality and kept referencing this movie. but i only remember that it had something to do with his penis falling off and how that either does happen in the movie and not the book or the other way around. losing the penis had to do with presence without embodiment. i think.

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