Review Date: October 31, 2007
Released by: Fox
Release date: 10/4/2005
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
Seth Brundle was a genius, who like so many in horror films past, died as a result of his excessive ambition. Like horror films past too, he left a legacy that would allow room for a sequel…he left us Eric Stoltz. In changing focus from Jeff Goldblum to his character’s son, Back to the Future pink-slip Stolz, the film also changed hands from David Cronenberg to Chris Walas. Cronenberg has always been a cerebral auteur first and horror director second, but Walas was, and always has been, a special effects artist over anything else. The first film was a massive success, based partly on its gooey Cronenberg creations, so The Fly II
goes a step further in a sort of self-conscious attempt to trump the original while borrowing the slimy inner conceptions of Rob Bottin’s work in The Thing
. It was a moderate success when released in 1989, but here it is now with a massive two disc set courtesy of 20th Century Fox. Is this fly worthy of the buzz?
The film begins with Veronica Quaife, Geena Davis’ character from the original, giving birth in closed medical quarters. As if her pained moaning didn’t signal a bad omen, her stomach begins to writhe and wriggle in that wonderful 80’s prosthetic way. Sure enough, out comes a huge larvae cooked in corn syrup, which eventually spurts out an oozy milky substance and finally a child. The child, Martin Brundle, eventually grows into Eric Stoltz, but first spends time as a child prodigy in captivity, much like Michelle Williams would be in Species
. He lives in a sealed room under constant observation, and the doctors, led by Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson
), observe his accelerated growth patterns. He grows four times the speed of a regular human, and is probably four times as smart as well. He yearns to escape, but upon seeing his pet dog mutilated in a failed teleportation experiment, he cocoons away traumatized.
Bartok and his associates, ever since the ruins of the first film, have been trying to perfect Seth Brundle’s work on teleportation. They seem to have all the theory correct, but something is missing. Every time they try an experiment, the teleportee ends up rendered inside out. They know it is only a fine little Brundle-ism that can correct the entire device, so they elect Martin to continue on with his father’s work. Upon prompting by his father in an archive video, and upon being offered his own private living quarters, Martin agrees to work on his father’s pet project. Still only five years old, he yearns to live as an adult, spending long hours at the office and courting a fellow employee, Beth Logan (The Initiation
’s Daphne Zuniga
). Yet even at a young age, he still possesses his father’s manic ambition.
Martin quickly gets wrapped up in his teleportation project, so much so that he begins to consider himself godlike in a Dr. Frankenstein like manner. A bit slower is his gradual mutation into the fly his father was fused with in the first film. Slowly he develops an aberration on his arm, and gradually it starts to travel throughout his whole body. Martin’s developed a teleportation cure for his ailment, which involves using a donor body to help correct all his faulty cells. The only problem is the donor will be killed in the process. Suddenly, Beth becomes a candidate as Bartok watches on. Regardless of who lives or who dies, it all ends in gory monster movie fashion.
Penned both by self-appointed Master of Horror Mick Garris and future director of the film every philistine lists as their favorite as a way to sound intelligent Frank Darabont, The Fly II
is the sort of effects heavy, shallow but entertaining film the two artists were known for. Like the Darabont penned Dream Warriors
, The Fly II
is significantly less artful or affecting than its original, but it nonetheless remains entirely watchable. It has a quick pace and a never-ending display of grotesque creature effects, with inverted dogs, buckets of puss and of course, the man-fly. Director Chris Walas was the effects man behind Cronenberg’s original, and its no surprise where the focus of this film lies. For those schooled on the work of Rob Bottin or Tom Savini, Walas’ work here will sit in good company. For those expecting the emotional resonance of the original however, there is little to swat at.
While The Fly II
no doubt passes as a slimy way to waste a few hours, it pales in comparison with Cronenberg’s original. In Cronenberg’s The Fly, the grotesque effects were a way at accentuating the story by visualizing the tragedy of Seth’s ambition. His gradual transformation was more than a mere effects show because of the rapport between Golblum and Davis, and because of the interpersonal script. Walas’s film does the opposite in using the story to accentuate each new grotesque creature creation. Instead of close-ups on the emotion of characters reacting to these tragic transformations, we get close-ups of pussy appendages or exploding artifices. Nothing defines Walas’s focus in the film more than its final scene, which ends with a throwaway effects gag of a superfluous character. Martin Brundle hardly even gets a closure in the film, his destine overlooked instead for a shallow shot of transformation meat.
If the calamity of Martin Brundle’s time machine is its ability to turn its subjects inside out, then the same too can be said, in a way, for Walas’ The Fly II
. It takes the heart of the original film, the character development and tragedy, and instead displays it on the outside as a gross out effect. The subtext that lies on the inside of any great exchange in The Fly is lost when it is replaced with shots of innards. Walas is a master at effects (he’s responsible for Gremlins
and the iconic veiny demise of Scanners
) but he certainly is no Cronenberg when it comes to story. Best remembered as a gory mainstream interlude than anything of real substance, The Fly II
entertains even if its sense of entertainment is completely inside out.
The Fly II
comes through nicely in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Visually, the film certainly doesn’t jump off the screen, with its muted color palette of earth tones and pastels. Yet the transfer retains these colors accurately. Compared to the original two-movie disc, this transfer looks virtually the same. So while it may not hold up with the big restorations of today, for an eight year old transfer, it holds up well. Now a days the grain present here would be reduced even further, and the tiny specs that show up every so often would be removed altogether. Still, for what it is, it’s fine.
We get DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 here, a treatment that few studios seem to give anymore. The extra work paid off, with a nice, full-sounding track. While the film is more understated than your usual horror, it still has moments of genuine fright, during which points the remixed sound serves the film well. The teleportation scenes especially pack a punch. Compared to the original disc, this is a big improvement.
If Murder Rock
seemed a questionable choice for a two disc special edition, then The Fly II
is really off the wall. While the truly atrocious packaging may not help Fox’s cause at all either, truth be told there is a worthwhile batch of extras here packed into this two disc set. Disc one features a commentary with Chris Walas and “Film Historian” Bob Burns. The two are lively and without pretense, enjoyably commenting on all the gore, which piece of The Fly II
memorabilia each one owns and where each scene was shot. There are some good anecdotes, both about the film and Cronenberg’s original, most entertaining of which is how Daphne Zuniga chose a kd lang song to dance to during the love scene in the film, and its beat was so unique that Walas, after having tried several other alternatives, had to use the playback song in the actual film. Two deleted scenes are also included, one alternate ending that really lacks payoff (although it at least does feature the protagonist, unlike the one that remains in the film) and another scene with a very funny punch line that involves Eric Stoltz projectile vomiting on a station wagon filled with bratty little league players. The disc is rounded off with trailers for the previous Fly movies, as well as other Fox horror favorites.
The meat of disc two is in the two documentaries included. The first is the 50-minute “Transformations: Looking Back at The Fly II
”. It’s predominately an extended interview with Director Chris Walas and Producer Steven-Charles Jaffe. Thankfully, Walas, at least, is a great communicator, and really recollects the history of the film with plenty of energy. He basically goes into detail about the success of the first film, how he was upgraded from effects coordinator to director and all the problems that brought. The various components of the filmmaking process are then toughed upon, from the cast and crew to the reshoots. The most interesting thing is more in what isn’t said though, as Walas is constantly suggesting that the Hollywood mode of production was such a struggle that he always had to fight for his ideas. In many cases he lost. We gain though, from this lonnnnnnnnng but nevertheless informative look at the making of the film.
The second documentary, the hour-long AMC documentary, “The Fly Papers: The Buzz on Hollywood’s Scariest Insect”, goes broader than just The Fly II
to discuss the entire history of the series. It begins with giving some context about the atomic era, where Cold War scares led to plenty of monster movies in the fifties. It talks at length about the Vincent Price originals, both in terms of historical context and inside the production as well. It does this for Cronenberg’s remake and Walas’ sequel as well, and overall it’s a slick and enjoyable television documentary. Even the footage used for the segment on The Fly II
is much better than the previous documentary, with plenty of quality on-set footage. Trust me, after two hours with The Fly from these two documentaries, you won’t have any more questions…but there’s more.
In the featurettes section, there’s the puffy original EPK, as well as a special effects diary and an interview with the composer. The effects diary, “CWI Production Journal”, showcases all of the creature creations for the film, composed entirely of on-set footage. While a little more insight would have been nice, often times just watching the happenings on set is story enough. This lasts 20-minutes, while the composer interview with Christopher Young runs around fourteen. Young talks briefly about working on Hellraiser, but more specifically describes how he scored the film for the emotions of the characters, rather than the thrills of the genre. So while he’s done big bombastic horror films like The Grudge, here he took a lighter, more mystical approach to the story, and it worked well. At 14-minutes his talk is a little long, but if you like that sort of thing you’ll probably be entertained.
Next are three storyboard-to-film comparisons with optional commentary with Chris Walas. They’re all pretty short, and what you’d expect from this tired feature. Check out the comparison for From Beyond for a demonstration of how to make an old extra fresh again. The disc is finally rounded off with trailers and still galleries. I now know about ten times more about The Fly II
than I do Nosferatu. Is this right?
The Fly II
takes a look at Cronenberg’s mindful love story from the inside out, instead looking at the gory innards of that mind, the body, or anything else that makes for a good effect. As a gross out monster movie, it not doubt succeeds, but in the shadow of Cronenberg’s dramatic original, it’s a disappointment. Fox certainly disappoint with their treatment on the disc though, with a solid transfer, DTS sound and two discs worth of extras. Why the film deserved such monumental treatment is beyond me, but fans of the film will no doubt be buzzing about this release. Despite the fact the packaging looks just atrocious in a collection, fans will want it in theirs anyway.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A-
Supplements - A-
- Running time - 1 hour and 46 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English DTS 5.1
- Spanish Dolby Surround
- French stereo
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- English closed captions
- Alternate Ending
- Deleted Scene
- "Transformations: Looking Back at The Fly II" Documentary
- "The Fly Papers: The Buzz on Hollywood's Scariest Insect" Documentary
- Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons with Optional Commentary
- Film Production Journal
- Christopher Young Featurette
- Original 1989 Featurette
- Still Photo Galleries
- Theatrical Trailers