I don’t know why I swallowed all this fly

Actually, I do know why. The Fly legacy rules and has haunted me since my childhood. So let’s get into all five films.

THE FLY (1958)

The pure simplicity of The Fly makes it such a classic of the 1950s. While it freaked me out as a kid, the truth is, this isn’t a monster movie in which the fly is a creature to be terrified of beyond how he looks. Instead it’s a tragic tale of nature gone wrong–the fly is, in a sense, the victim of the horror here, sort of making this a play on Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” concept. But alas, the man seals his own fate here by messing with science.

In essence this is a tale of a scientist who creates a “Beam me up, Scotty!” machine. He figures out how to teleport physical matter from one chamber to another in his lab by pulling the molecules apart then reforming them. You would think after the sick bastard sends his pet cat into thin air, never to return, he wouldn’t fuck around anymore.

Instead, he gets in the machine himself…not knowing a fly buzzed into the chamber. The results of the teleporting is a mashup of the two life forms. So, while the scientist keeps his face hidden from his wife, he instructs her and her son to try desperately to hunt down and capture a fly with a white head. Eek.

I only have dozens of eyes for you, honey. Now find that fly!

The suspense of the entire film is based around a) seeing what he looks like under the towel, and b) seeing what the white-headed fly looks like. And it’s worth the wait.

The classic final scene with Vincent Price discovering the fly in a horrific predicament in the garden still gives me the willies when I see and hear it and remains one of horror’s most disturbingly effective moments for me.

RETURN OF THE FLY (1959)

It’s always fascinating to look back at just how long horror has been pulling the cash-in stunt of rushing out sequels, not to mention doing the old rinse and repeat while just making sure to add more horror.

Released only a year after the original classic, Return of the Fly gives us a jolting surprise; it’s black and white! I love me some black and white horror, but I prefer continuity, so this regression to a then dying film format is disappointing. But seeing as to how much more cartoonishly monstrous the fly head is this time, it’s probably better it’s camouflaged by the gloom of the colorless format.

Vincent Price is back, and the son from the first film is an adult he warns away from continuing his dad’s scientific work. Lucky for us he doesn’t heed the warning.

There are more animal/human crossovers this time to horrify us, and when the scientist finally ends up getting accidentally mixed up with a fly that gets in the machine (what are the odds?), wouldn’t you know he coincidentally switches the same exact body parts with the insect that his dad did?

The fly with a human head looks ridiculous this time, but at least the big man fly is much more of a monster than a tragic figure, and goes around killing people. There’s even a good jump scare. Awesome.

CURSE OF THE FLY (1965)

It seems virtually pointless to continue the franchise name six years later in a movie that has no fly monster at all. Hell, this could have cashed in as a sequel to Freaks instead.

Very loosely tied to the previous films, the family experimenting with teleportation is poorly linked by a family tree that isn’t really possible based on the first two films, so you just have to go with it. Also, the detective has the same character name, but is played by a different actor.

You’re really best off watching this as a pretty creepy standalone film. A woman escapes from a mental institution, meets a man, marries him, and goes to live at his home, unaware that his failed experiments with teleportation are leaving behind a collection of deformed humans he keeps locked away and under the watchful eye of a woman who is freaky herself.

There really isn’t much more to it than that. The ignorant woman who is destined to discover and be terrorized by her husband’s dirty secret, all the while being told by him and his family that she’s imaging things.

Atmospheric and eerie, this one does benefit from black and white film. Unfortunately, it falls apart at the end with a very sloppy denouement.

THE FLY (1986)

If you’re going to remake and reimagine a horror classic for a modern audience (30 years ago), you need to do it the way David Cronenberg did The Fly. A virtual rewrite beyond the core premise, the 1986 film deconstructs the deconstruction of man and fly, making a gradual transformation the factor that carries the plot.

Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis are both at the top of their game, and their performances as virtually the only characters in the film add to its strength.

Jeff is a scientist, Geena is a reporter. They hit it off then he shows her his experiment. You would think once he tries his teleportation on a monkey and the machine turns the poor thing inside out, he would never even consider getting in the machine himself. Idiot.

Gone is the swapped body parts, so there’s no man with a fly’s head and no hunting for a white-headed fly. Instead, the two completely fuse structurally into one, so Jeff slowly begins to change.

He becomes more agile, he becomes virile, he becomes angry, and he becomes strong. I didn’t know flies were virile, angry, or strong. I also didn’t know that if you go to a bar with bad skin, then snap a guy’s bone out of his skin during an arm wrestle, you could just walk out with no repercussions and some bimbo will still go home with you.

Jeff’s slow metamorphosis delivers the gruesome, disgusting horror. I mean, I love a hairy guy, but if coarse bug hairs started growing out of his back, I’d start having second thoughts. And once my guy began puking on his food before devouring it, I’d be out of there. Brings a whole new meaning to having your ass eaten out.

The acid puke is definitely the kicker in this remake, with Jeff eventually taking out his jealousy on one character in one of the most heinous ways. Plus, we finally do get to see a fly version of Jeff, and it’s a nightmare.

And let’s just say it’s a good thing Geena doesn’t live in one of those states that would make her carry a fly larva to full term.

THE FLY II (1989)

Cronenberg doesn’t return to make the sequel, which is a pointless rehash that sticks to the formula of the original sequel–more monster, more murder. As ridiculous as it is as a sequel, it’s definitely a good, gory creature feature.

The son of the fly is born to a pretty good Geena Davis lookalike. As he grows to become Eric Stoltz…in a lab…a scientist who acts as his father figure continues to experiment with teleportation and urges him to continue his father’s work.

It’s a struggle for Stoltz, who secretly sneaked into the lab as a child and saw the scientist experiment with his beloved dog with tragic results.

Having just lost my own Miss Fine, the little puppy love of my life, only a month ago, the segment about the dog was excruciatingly long and heartbreaking during the revisit of the film, and I ended up fricking sobbing non-stop for like fifteen minutes. Since the movie runs fifteen minutes longer than the first one and begins to drag, I vote that much of the dog part should have been cut.

The film really does drag as it goes into recycled territory. Stoltz begins a relationship with Daphne Zuniga (who I still think is the same person as Justine Bateman) in a montage set to a KD Lang song. Then he begins to change, realizes he is his father’s son, gets angry, and unlike his dad, goes on a massive killing spree through the lab.

Although the “fly” looks nothing like a bug, it makes excessive use of its acid puke as it takes down lab workers left and right. It’s not the fly, but it is definitely a creature feature good time. It also end with a mean-spirited revenge twist.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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