Halloween Countdown: The Fly

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(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)

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THE FLY (1986). For nearly four decades, David Cronenberg has ranked as a maverick filmmaker who marches to his own beat, so it's with no small measure of irony that his best picture also turns out to be his most commercially successful one. The minor 1958 sci-fi classic The Fly is re-imagined by Cronenberg so that it fits more snugly with his favorite themes: the relationship between man and machine, the draw of sexual perversities, and the manner in which our own bodies can betray us without a moment's notice. Yet for all its fetishistic attention to gross-out elements, what primarily distinguishes the film is its love story; I've seen this movie approximately a dozen times, and the tragic romance never fails to choke me up. Jeff Goldblum is sensational as the doomed scientist who notes, "I'm an insect who dreamed he was a man and loved it. But now the dream is over and the insect is awake" — an aching, beautiful passage. He's matched by Geena Davis, cast as the journalist who's tormented by what's happening to the man she adores. Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis deservedly earned the Oscar for Best Makeup; Walas then assumed the role of director for 1989's The Fly II, one of those sequels requested by absolutely no one.

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