Time Out's 50 greatest monster movies: part seven
Be afraid, be very afraid: this is our number one. But is 'The Fly' even a monster movie - it might be science fiction, romantic tragedy, even melodrama - or does it simply transcend the genre?
1. The Fly (1987)Directed by David CronenbergThe dream is over, and the insect is awakeIf the sign of a truly great monster movie is that it provokes broader emotions than mere horror, then ‘The Fly’ is a masterpiece. Our feelings for the tragic Brundlefly run so much deeper than mere disgust or even pity: we admire his scientific genius and his goofy, loquacious charm, sympathise with his romantic uncertainty and tendency for adolescent jealousy, recoil at the grotesque transformation of his body and mind, and finally weep for his hubristic but inevitable destruction.It seems ironic that we’ve chosen ‘The Fly’ to top this list because it is, after all, the most painfully human of all monster movies. The fact that Cronenberg spends the bloodless first half patiently setting up his characters pays phenomenal dividends when the slime starts flowing: we care for these people in a deep, entirely genuine way. It’s a romantic pairing of which Preston Sturges would’ve been proud: flawed, funny, fucked-up and beautifully performed by the then-an-item double act of Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.Cronenberg’s other great strength is the way he introduces his themes: subtly at first, but with increasing force and ferocity. ‘The Fly’ is a catch-all metaphor: is it about ageing, cancer, Aids, or simply destructive transformation and dark self-discovery? One thing’s for certain: like most of Cronenberg’s films from the period, it’s about flesh: how it defines us and defeats us, how it conspires against the self, the mind, in an ongoing battle for bodily dominance that we are ultimately doomed to lose. These themes are woven beautifully into the narrative, voiced calmly in the early scenes as Brundle and his computer ‘learn about the flesh’ and reaching fever pitch as Brundle finds himself powerless against the increasingly urgent demands of his corrupted and rebellious body. That, ultimately, is the film’s primary lesson: life is a losing game. The flesh will get you in the end. THWatch a behind-the-scenes clip
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