By: Jessica Gould
David Cronenberg’s 1986 film ‘The Fly’ has continued to be known as a horror masterpiece throughout many decades and generations of film audiences (Corliss, 2007) The premise of the film is about a young and withdrawn scientist named Seth Brundle (who later on renames himself as Brundlefly) is eager for human interaction and openly admits to never actually go out much. The isolated and guarded scientist meets journalist Veronica Quaife who was sent to be on the look for a scientific story to cover. After some talking, Seth invites Veronica back to his own personal laboratory, which coincidentally doubles as his apartment and demonstrates his invention of the Telepods. The purpose of the Telepod is to be able to transport objects from one place to another, an absolutely incredible and groundbreaking invention in the scientific community and world. Through countless experiments, it is learned that the Telepod can only work properly if it is an inanimate object that is being teleported as his computer can only understand inanimate objects, discovering after turning a baboon inside out. This is counterintuitive to Seth's inspiration on the creation and construction of the Telepod invention because he would like to use it to travel since he has always suffered motion sickness and it is difficult for him to travel without getting nauseous, confiding in Veronica "When I was a kid, I puked on my tricycle". Although a horror masterpiece, 'The Fly' is also a tragic love triangle story between Brundle, Veronica, and Stathis, who is Veronica’s editor and ex-boyfriend. After falling in love with Veronica, and becoming reinspired to reconfigure the Telepods to transport living organisms, Seth uses another baboon and the transportation between Telepods for a living organism is now a success. Seth soon after discovers Stathis is still a part of Veronica’s life, and then becomes jealous and drunk after assuming Veronica is cheating on him and using him to get her story as a journalist, and he teleports himself. When he does this, he is alone and therefore has no idea that a fly accompanied him into one of the Telepods and the end result is not teleportation, but the computer fused both Seth and the fly upon re-materialization and progresses into the decent of being more insect than human to ultimately becoming a human sized fly as his final form before death by shotgun used by the trembling hands and emotional Veronica as she sees her new love explode before her tear drowning eyes. It was only in the end that he finally looked like the monster that represented the grotesque embodiment of his long-repressed desires and fears as he becomes obsessed with sex and power and with his condition, devoured and transformed by it (Beard, W. 2006, The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg).
The film opens with a beautiful brightly lit ballroom filled with people talking to each other, and this is where we first meet Seth and Veronica as she interviews Seth's scientific work, discoveries, and his latest inventions. The film’s opening shot is in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Walker Court, and it is not the only Canadian filming location, but in fact director David Cronenberg reveals on the DVD commentary track for the film that the story does take place in Toronto. Some of the most visible iconic Toronto shots include shots of Seth walking through the Yonge-Dundas area, including the old flea market, taking a look through Kensington Market, and of course the shot that secures the story's location set to be proudly Canadian, is the CN Tower seen in the distance of the Toronto General Hospital, where Veronica delivers her grotesque larva baby in her nightmare. Similar to a high volume of other films throughout the ages, Toronto is common to be shot as anything else but Toronto, commonly New York or Seattle. David Cronenberg has also had his fair share of shooting in Toronto but suggesting the location is not, in fact, Toronto and based out of another location entirely, such as disguising Toronto as Philly in his film 'A History of Violence' (The Psychotronic Tourist: The Fly, 2013). There is something wholesome and proud when you see Canadian landmarks in a film and it is not a slip up of continuity. To be proud and base the storytelling in our Canadian streets, our Canadian restaurants, and our Canadian buildings, is something that makes a Canadian audience feel truly proud to be Canadian and a nice difference to watching big-time Hollywood films and recognizing a local street or landmark and feel ashamed that the cameo was by accident because the film is trying to cover up that it is being shot in Canada. Fellow directors can follow in the footsteps of the success The Fly has done throughout the ages and not be ashamed for creating more Canadian based location films. Canada has great diversity that it should not be an easy trick to American filmmakers to film New York in Toronto but to showcase Toronto, Vancouver, PEI, and all over our country to prove we are able to provide beautiful and stunning locations that end up being in successful and beloved films without the need for disguising it as proud American soil.
As Chris Rodley describes, “horror films in general achieve this ambiguous relation to the horrifying and disgusting: we wallow in it, but it never actually touches us. The experience is certainly nothing like actually experiencing the events and situations depicted. In The Fly, events of the utmost revoltingness occur, and the camera catches them in all their gory detail, but we never find ourselves wanting to flee the scene for fear of contamination. Our emotion is actually not that of disgust proper but only an artistically transformed simulacrum of it—quasi-disgust, as we might call it” (Cronenberg & Rodley, 1997). Cronenberg on Cronenberg. David Cronenberg’s The Fly has fused audiences together over the bond of an incredible visual piece of cinema that involved a multitude of Canadian locations, long hours in the makeup chair for Jeff Goldblum to transform into Brundlefly to match his character transformation and development, and as an audience we experience on screen the fragility of life as it relates to the body, mind, and sexuality through Seth’s transformation into flyhood. The studio did not think a picture “where the protagonist becomes the antagonist” would be marketable (AFI Catalogue of Feature Films). This has been proven wrong with the success of being the “top-grossing film in the country” for the first two weeks after its release in 1986. The Fly as a film is then quick to offer it’s audience a horrific possibility and question of what happens to the body when it begins to revolt against the mind, and the mind is unable to assemble any control over the body itself.