A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Fly is a 1986 classic horror remake in which Jeff Goldblum plays a scientist who transforms into a fly. Like other horror movies directed by David Cronenberg, this movie has plenty of horror and nightmare imagery. As Goldlbum's character becomes more and more fly-like, he becomes increasingly grotesque, both physically and in his behavior. He rips an ear off and rips his teeth out, for instance, and that's just the beginning. As he realizes he has the strength of a fly, he goes to a dive bar and arm-wrestles one of the men in the bar, breaking his arm so the bone rips out of the skin. He later vomits on a hand, causing the man to lose his hand in graphic burning and melting. A baboon is killed during a science experiment -- literally turned inside-out with only smoldering muscle tissue left. There's some profanity, including "f--k," plus cigarette smoking and some drinking. There are also some scenes between the lead female character and her boss/ex-boyfriend that constitute sexual harassment. Lead characters have sex, with very brief nudity (female breast) in the aftermath; the lead female character is also shown greeting the lead male character with her legs spread open.
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What's the story?
In THE FLY, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), a brilliant but socially awkward scientist, meets Victoria Quaife (Geena Davis), a science reporter, at a social function. Eager to impress her, Brundle invites Quaife to his warehouse home and laboratory to show her what he's working on: "telepods," in which objects can teleport from one pod to the other. But he has been unable to make his experiment work on living things until Quaife, who is starting to become smitten with Brundle, gives him some unscientific advice that points Brundle in the right direction. But Quaife is trying to break up with her former boyfriend, who is also her editor. While she's off trying to end things with her editor, Brundle gets the wrong idea, gets drunk, and decides to teleport himself now that he has figured out how to transfer living creatures from one telepod to the other. However, when Brundle does this, a fly manages to get inside the telepod. When he emerges, Brundle seems fine at first, but over time, he gradually begins to take on the physical features and behaviors of a house fly, and gradually begins to look more and more like one. Now it's up to Brundle, with help from Quaife, to see if there's a way to stop Brundle's metamorphosis into a fly before he loses his humanity.
Is it any good?
While the fashions, computer technology, mullet hair, and big perms haven't aged well, the rest of this film has stood the test of time. Jeff Goldblum's trademark mannerisms and speech cadences give his mad-scientist character an understated yet plain awkwardness that offsets how menacing he slowly becomes, first in his behavior and then in his physical appearance. This tale of human-to-insect metamorphosis was the perfect vehicle for director David Cronenberg, known for the nightmare-inducing imagery in such movies as Scanners, Videodrome, and Naked Lunch.
Like all good stories, The Fly takes full advantage of the possibilities in the premise. It's subtle at first -- Brundle dropping sugar cube after endless sugar cube into a cappuccino during the earliest stages of turning into a fly, for instance -- with each step slowly becoming more menacing. It's the kind of slow burn that Hitchcock turned into an art form. The scares and gore proceed organically from the story and avoid the gratuitous excesses of so many other horror movies. It's fun, frightening, creepy, gross, and engrossing -- a horror classic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about remakes. This version of The Fly, a remake of a 1958 movie, has taken on a life of its own as an '80s horror classic. What are some other examples of movie remakes that are just as good, if not better, than the original? Does this happen often?
How are computers and technology conveyed in this movie? How would they be shown differently if this movie came out today?
What are some other examples of movies, TV shows, and literary fiction in which characters turn into supernatural beings, animals, or insects? Why do you think there's an appeal for these kinds of stories?
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