Seth (Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist working on teleportation. His girlfriend Veronica (Geena Davis) is chronicling his experiments for a book. After a lengthy process of figuring out how to transport live objects (without making them a bloody mess), Seth transports himself, inadvertently with a fly. He and the insect fuse together, causing Seth to mutate. At first, he’s pleased; he can do gymnastics and have marathon sex sessions. But then his nails, teeth, and even his ears fall off, his skin becomes gray and bumpy, and he has to eat like a fly, which involves dissolving his food (bad news for Veronica’s scummy boss Stathis). Emotionally, he becomes aggressive and insists Veronica leave him before he hurts her. Unfortunately she’s pregnant, and scared to have the baby. Meanwhile, an increasingly deranged Seth thinks he can weed out the fly genes if he splices himself with enough people, and sets his sights on Veronica.
Ah my first Cronenberg. This is probably David Cronenberg’s most mainstream film. I feel he did a good job with this remake; in fact I don’t think anyone else should have done it—the radical altering of flesh is his specialty. There are major changes from the original, not the least of which are updating it scientifically (watch for Seth’s giant ‘80s computer), changing everyone’s names, and making the characters American instead of French. Of course he took out the fly crying “Help me! Help me!” but he replaced that iconic scene with the much-used phrase “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” I do miss Vincent Price, but Davis is always pleasant, and Goldblum gives a great performance as the “fly who dreamed he was a man.” Kudos to him for wearing what looks like ten pounds of makeup. I enjoy how oddly cheerful he is while mutating, and how excited, like the scene when he examines a mystery growth on his stomach: “Oh, look at this. What’s this? I don’t know.” I rarely consider remakes to be superior to the original (or even a good idea) but this one’s in gifted hands.
This film has one of the worst gross-out moments I’ve ever seen. Seth is arm-wrestling a guy, and makes the bone pop out of his forearm. What makes it worse is the guy’s agonized screams (when I watched it last, my brother came in from another room to see what was going on). Check it out if you like Cronenberg’s tactics for disgusting happenings (but not for bizarre ones), and watch for him playing a surgeon.