So, last week on Video Shop Daze, I revisited David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). A televised rerun prompted the revisiting of this delightfully discomforting contribution to the ‘body horror’ sub-genre.
Well, this week, the TV powers that be gave Melbourne viewers The Fly II. This is the little known sequel to that blockbuster. ‘Little known’, perhaps, because neither director nor the earlier film’s leads (Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis) were involved.
The Fly II held its own in the ‘Horror’ section of my local video shop back in the day. Similar video cover artwork. Similar squeaky cover. Fuck, I miss those squeaky covers.
Though it was on TV that I caught this one originally, aged eleven, one Friday night circa 1991. And it was on the tube that I revisited this late 80s opus as a less wide-eyed (but no less excitable) thirtysomething.
(Yes, in 2017, I still watch broadcast television. What do you expect of a guy who blogs about videocassettes? But I digress …)
The Fly II begins with the birth of Brundefly Junior, and the death of his mother Veronica on the operating table. This birth recalls Veronica’s nightmare in the original – same screaming, same phallic symbolism, but none of the unexpected jolt that made that earlier sequence so memorable.
In that last respect, this opener sets the tone for the rest of the film.
Fast-forward a few years. Brundefly Junior aka Martin (Eric Stoltz) is five years old, but has the mental and physical characteristics of a dude in his early twenties. His accelerated ageing is linked somehow to his father Seth’s condition. I say ‘somehow’ because his father Seth transformed himself into a fly, and it’s unclear how fly DNA speeds up the ageing process. But I digress again…
So Martin is living inside the headquarters of Bartok Industries, the Big Pharma that was bankrolling his work-from-home dad. Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson), the suitably smug CEO, has kept on Brundle the Second as a form of cheap labour.Or so it seems. After all, someone has to fix the teleportation pods that were destroyed by gunfire at the end of the first film (and do it without any apparent remuneration. We can assume that Bartok Industries are union-busters).
Actually, Bartok wants to carry out more scientific experiments. You see, Bartok knows that Martin is a chip off the old block in the DNA stakes. Half-human/half-insect- not exactly the sort of subject any self-respecting scientist would want to let slip away.
Alas, Martin’s transformation coincides with the discovery that he’s being exploited. And he’s mad. LOOK at ‘im!
Very soon, Brundle the Second is spewing fly acid, and avenging his enslavement by malevolent medicos. Like this guy:
Kinda looks like a pasta sauce I cooked once. I no longer have the recipe for that pasta sauce.
Yes, even without Cronenberg, The Fly II is bilious stuff. There’s fried flesh aplenty, and the body count exceeds that of the first film.
The Fly II is also bland.
The print quality is bland. The version of The Fly II that played the other evening had that worn-out look that’s redolent of those tapes that have seen one too many VCRs.
The leads are bland. Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga lack the chemistry and, dammit, the quirkiness of Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Where those bug eyes and brown bouffants when we need them? Where’s the chemistry? Where are the characters we can actually, ya know, care about?
As a side note: Stoltz was amusing in Pulp Fiction a few years later. Remember this guy?
You might remember Zuniga from her appearance in the Lucille Ball tour-de-force Stone Pillow. Remember this one?
Oh, and John Getz briefly reprises his role as Stathis Borans. In the original, Stathis was a ‘scummy’ (his word) editor. In the 1989 outing, he’s a weary wino who turns up to lick his (fly vomit-induced) wounds and moan about being ‘bugged’, before vanishing.
Actually, a brief clip from the Cronenberg classic reminds viewers of the quality that is missing here. The Fly II might have looked cool in its squeaky videocassette cover back in the day, but it’s a creature feature that’s best left on the shelf.
Now, who wants me to revisit Stone Pillow?