by Erika Bromley and Patrick Bromley
Erika: Hi Babe! Glad to be back a few months since our last Shelf Life piece, and I was really looking forward to this one, since I knew from the START of this column what my F choice was going to be. In terms of Movie Shame (movies any movie lover should see but hasn’t yet), this film was at the top of my list. Finally, I’ve seen David Cronenberg’s The Fly. I’m sad that it took me so long but at the same time, it was SO worth the wait.
Many people, including this site’s Robyn Buckley, have asked me about The Fly after learning how deeply disturbed, uncomfortable, scared, and sad a lot of ‘body horror’ makes me. It’s a sub-genre that is incredibly effective in making me feel trapped and powerless. Nothing is scarier!
Erika: I absolutely agree that it is, along with The Thing, which was one of my Scary Movie Month discoveries last year. Due to some luck (the kids having an activity at the same time, meaning we were home alone!) and our brilliant planning, we watched a record number of films in October, and I was able to cross a few things off of my “Movie Shame” list. It felt great! But yes, The Fly. So good. I’m sure anyone reading already knows this.
I feel like Geena Davis is doing a sweeter version of Sigourney Weaver’s character in Ghostbusters here, as she is first intrigued yet somewhat perplexed and then smitten with her new ‘mad scientist’ friend-turned-boyfriend Seth Brundle (played by Top Form Jeff Goldblum). Her performance is incredibly believable: warm, empathetic, graceful, and natural. I connected with her character in so many ways despite not really relating to the subject matter, if you know what I mean. It’s also one of the most heartbreaking performances, with Davis so subtly and perfectly illustrating feelings of shock and pain as Brundle slowly changes not just how he treats her, but also his physical form. His cells ‘rearrange’ into the Brundlefly, and the transformation could not be more grotesque -- or more heartbreaking.
Aliens) -- and create two people who like one another, who challenge one another, who are believably in love when so few movies take shortcuts and ask us to buy a relationship just because it’s between the two stars. That their love is destined to die makes The Fly such a human tragedy.
The tragedy of the film just wrecks me. Think about it -- Seth Brundle becomes a monster because of a simple mistake. He’s jealous and he gets drunk and he fucks up and it winds up destroying him. It’s not really the same ‘mad scientist’ trope we get in other horror movies. Yes, maybe Brundle fits that description, but the mistake he makes is rooted in a very real, very relatable, very human emotion. He’s hurt. We’ve all been there.
Erika: That’s an important distinction, and what makes this story so significant, tragic, and, as you said, relatable.
I have to applaud how this film shows Ronnie as in control of her body as was possible -- both because of the plot and the time period. It feels daring when she insists on an abortion. And it feels progressive that Borans takes her and tries to help, even if his motives are not purely unselfish. Showing up and demanding the procedure in the middle of the night is unrealistic, sure, but the emotions of the characters are so desperate and genuine - I imagine no one in the audience, no matter what his/her opinions on the matter are, was void of empathy for Ronnie in that situation.
Patrick: You said it: empathy is the key to the whole movie. Any other movie would make Stathis Borans an irredeemable douche. Even his name is punchable. But Cronenberg has enough heart to make us care about him, so much so that his eventual fate becomes that much more horrifying and hard to watch. He doesn’t have to be as three-dimensional as he is, but as the third player in what is essentially a three-character drama, Stathis is afforded genuine humanity. It’s what makes The Fly so goddamn great. I say this as someone who loves horror movies, even the not-so-great ones: so many horror movies are about stock characters caught in scripted situations. The Fly unfolds as a tragedy about real people.
My ‘F’ pick was of a Mario Bava movie that we own but which I had not yet seen: Five Dolls for an August Moon. It’s about a group of friends vacationing on a remote island who are killed off one by one, Agatha Christie style. There isn’t much more to it than that.
Speaking of pretty people, though, let’s talk about the real reason we picked this movie to watch.
Erika: Did someone just say Edwige Fenech? It was me; I said it.
Patrick: Until you brought her up, I forgot all about the woman hiding behind the trees. That’s symptomatic of the movie overall, which, like you, I found pretty disposable. I’m glad you mention Gerry Farrell, though, because his name sounds a lot like Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction. More importantly, it sounds a lot like Terry Farrell, who plays Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Can we talk about Star Trek please?
Erika: Dare I say, we boldly go there?
Erika: Much like the aforementioned Bachelor in Paradise is not overtly stylish but serves as time-passing filler when one cannot gather the attention-span for actual thought-provoking narrative, Five Dolls for an August Moon helped pass 81 minutes of our time, didn’t require much while watching, and attracted my extra attention a few times due to beach scenes and some gorgeous ladies. Bava light is quick and easy, and that’s not always a bad thing!