This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Lauren’s Collection’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
So, this is one of my favourite films of all time. I can talk about this film for hours… But I will try and keep the review as small as possible.. Maybe. This masterpiece makes me feel a variety of different impactful emotions throughout the film, which I will explain in this review.
At the heart of this story, it is a real character piece, I get attached to the characters and truly want the best for them.
We see a strong, powerful and unbreakable love between Seth (a brilliant scientist) and Veronica (a journalist) that is represented throughout the film in many ways. The major representation of endearment and devotion Veronica has for Seth is paramount at the end of this film when we see her looking at the man she loves, she looks past the grotesque being and remembers who he was and it seems unbearable for her to kill him. You see this because she hesitates to kill him, profusely, heartbreakingly saying that she can’t; he is begging her to kill him the only way he can, by taking the gun and pointing it at his head and she still needs to use all her might to pull the trigger. In addition to this, Seth’s plan to commit the “A-B fusion,” would be so horrifying to even think about, you feel absolutely terrified for Veronica as Seth is dragging her against her will to the telepod, however after all that, she still reflects an insufferable amount of pain to kill him. It seems like all the emotion leading up to the final scene is really hitting her all at once and Geena Davis’ acting is tremendously brilliant in portraying this character's feelings.
Another reason which shows a powerful love Veronica has for Seth is a very subtle but an effective representation, when we see she is still wearing the heart necklace he gave her- we see this in the scene where he phones her after 4 weeks. This shows that even after a month away from Seth, she still cares and thinks about him enough to get up in the morning and put the necklace on. That and the fact she still hugs him after his ear falls off with all that gunk on his face and top… If that isn’t showing the love she has for him, I don’t know what will. In this said scene, where he rings her to see him, she is pleading for Seth to get help and doesn’t accept his condition, however he refuses to seek the medical help which leaves Veronica annoyed as to why he called her to see him. This showed me the realisation that Veronica is seeing the man she truly loves self destructing and deteriorating in front of her and she can’t and doesn’t have the power to help him- which in itself, is extremely tragic. You can sincerely understand, empathise and sympathise with how Veronica is feeling throughout the film.
Furthermore, Seth is such a likeable character (to me anyway) so it is more forceful when we see him change and the scenes create a dominant feeling of dread, misery and a traumatic experience which makes me almost feel what he’s feeling. At first, he has disbelief that anything serious has happened to him, he is sceptical and won’t listen to Veronica’s pleas. He honestly believes that his remarkable new personality- the confidence and new potential he has gained- is down to his reality of thinking that the telepod has “purified,” him: the process of being taken apart atom by atom and reassembled has cleansed him. However, as the film goes on we see drastic changes (which I will talk about in detail later in the review) which result in not just his appearance evolving but his whole persona and characteristics too. We see him become so desperate to grasp onto as much as humanity as he can, by wanting to use another human to teleport with and fuse together- in the end, forcibly trying to use Veronica. This emphasises how drastically this process has changed him. Even though this should paint Seth in a negative and villainous way, the original Seth is still in there and the love he feels for Veronica is still glimpsing through too, for instance, he is still trying to protect her by telling her she has to go and to never come back because he knows what he is going to become, he knows he will have no compassion. “I’ll hurt you if you stay,” is such an impactful and eye opening scene in the realisation that this man, who adores Veronica, is giving up seeing her for his remaining days because he knows he will eventually hurt her. The whole Insect Politics scene is one of my favourite scenes in the film. “I’m saying I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it. But the dream is over and the insect is awake.” Just wow.
In relation to this, we also see a very heart shattering scene after Seth hears that Veronica is pregnant: he doesn’t want her to kill the baby because it is the only thing left of the real him and leads onto saying, in a very devastated tone, “Please don’t kill me.” Which once again, shows that even though this vicious insect is taking over, Seth is still there fighting to shine back through.
The practical effects and Seth’s transformation:
I can’t imagine the pain Seth must have been going through as he was becoming Brundle-fly. Especially when he becomes Brundle-Fly/Telepod. It is left up to the viewers to imagine the tortuous pain he is going through, through the final transition. It is a horrendous thought when you think about it, the agonising pain of your body being ripped apart bit by bit to the point where you’re unrecognisable. And the feelings you feel while watching this is multiplied by 1000 because of the practical effects.
The practical effects throughout this film are absolutely remarkable. It is very horrifying to watch and impactful, which is definitely what the makers of this film, including David Cronenberg himself, wanted. The development of Seth turning into the fly is shocking, every time you see him, he has changed- it starts off in subtle ways but then progresses and advances dramatically. The extent of this impactful and unbelievable transformation that we see Seth go through is incredible to watch, the disturbances we see on the screen would not be able to be accomplished by using CGI. The power of seeing this transformation using practical effects is much greater than seeing it through CGI, mainly because it is just 100% more realistic and stronger to the viewer.
Another reason why practical effects (in this case) have the biggest impact over CGI, is that the actors have a better view on how they would actually react when seeing the transformation. It creates a better acting field; instead of the actors pretending to see what we’re seeing on the screen, they’re actually there interacting with what’s going on, therefore making the scene feel more real. We’re seeing their real expressions as a result of the transformation and that’s why practical effects will always be the best option when it comes to horror especially when it comes to this film!
The transformation is extremely slow and incredibly painful, which in result, is traumatic for Seth who is going through it and also for Veronica for having to watch him go through it knowing she can’t do anything to help stop it.
Now let’s talk about the plot, with some really effective scenes:
The bond and relationship between Veronica and Seth begins when he invites her back to his home because he is working on something that is life changing, after meeting her at a press event. This starts in a very interesting and mysterious way which left me wanting to know what I was about to see in the later scenes in the film. After showing and displaying what the telepod could do (by teleporting Veronica’s stocking, yes you read correctly, a stocking) Seth offers her a proposal that she can document his work day by day and it could become her major project, to tell his story.
Following this, they begin their work on trying to teach the computer about flesh and driving it out of the mind set of just teleporting inanimate objects, they finally teleport a baboon who seems fine but they wanted to get it tested just to be safe. Veronica’s old flame, Stathis, is enraged with jealousy throughout the film and displays some very sketchy and stalker-ish behaviour, one of those being prior to the teleportation of the baboon, where he follows her to a store where she is buying Seth a new jacket. He watches her do this and has an argumentative outburst in the clothes shop which then leads to him, in a very petty manner, sending Seth a magazine cover that they could publish. This may seem like something minor and something to be looked over as nothing to Seth- he could think it’s just a harmless magazine idea that Veronica and Stathis are working on for him. But, if you look closely, you will see that he has had it designed so that Seth is wearing the new jacket that he saw Veronica buy for him in the clothing store, therefore knowing Veronica will see it and know that Stathis is mocking Seth and trying to get under Veronica’s skin. This then leads Veronica to storm out to confront Stathis over this issue.. And this ladies and gents, is where this story takes a very severe turn for the worst.
The whole next scenes after Veronica has walked out are so uneasy to watch. Seth is jealous, annoyed and worst of all. Drunk. Therefore, he very stupidly decides to go through the telepod without testing the baboon. A camera shot lands on the baboon’s head, which shows a fly flying around its head. At this moment I knew what was about to happen next and there is no way of stopping it, Seth doesn’t see the fly and if he did, he probably wouldn’t think anything of it. The feeling of apprehension kicks in, especially when the fly lands in the telepod door with Seth. The score creates a very dramatic atmosphere. The slow countdown causes suspense. Even though Seth teleports and comes out seemingly looking fine and unharmed, you just know something has gone wrong. The scene ends with the text of, “Teleportation successful,” which is a very big foreshadow of what’s to come. Later in the film, Veronica tests the hairs Seth had grown on his back and all the horrid thoughts and doubts of Seth’s future, in the film, comes crashing down. They’re insect hairs. The audience knew it was coming. I knew it was coming. But damn, I did not want to believe it. I started to fear for him.
The final act of this film is very horrific, shocking and horrendous. And isn’t it a ride to watch it. All the dread and daunting feelings you have throughout the film all amount to the most monstrous but epic finale. If you thought the prior transformation was a shock, you’re definitely in for a real shock for the ending result, I certainly was.
In conclusion, it’s difficult explaining emotion when it comes to films like this, it’s better to feel them and that’s what this film is all about. It gives you a rush of emotions and lets you sit there with them throughout the film, as they get elevated the more it goes on. You connect with the characters and the situation they’re involved in, to the extent that you feel like you’re going on that journey with them. Yes. Even with Stathis. All in all, this is my favourite film for an uncountable number of reasons. Maybe I’m biased. But this film is a masterpiece. Thanks for reading :)