Chris Walas’ sequel to David Cronenberg’s The Fly is one of the most misunderstood horror sequels of all-time. Unfortunately for Walas, his fine film does not compare to Cronenberg’s masterpiece because it is an entirely different film. Perhaps the studio should have gone with Son of the Fly or something to that effect in order to differentiate itself from the Cronenberg title.
Compared to Cronenberg’s vision, The Fly II suffers in terms of character development, comprehensive storytelling and sophisticated themes. What some viewers and most critics fail to notice is that The Fly II should be viewed as an entertaining horror flick and not a glimpse into the human nature of mortality as was true with Cronenberg’s film. Cronenberg’s film is viewed as a masterpiece because it transcends the horror genre due to its love story and themes of madness, sacrifice and the frailty of the human flesh.
Although The Fly II does not possess the deeper probing into the human psyche like Cronenberg’s vision, it succeeds in every way as a horror film. It has all the major aspects necessary for a successful horror film including: superb special effects, a cool looking monster, an over the top villain and several great gross out moments. What else can a horror fanatic hope for?
The Fly II starts off where its predecessor left off with Veronica Quaife’s character pregnant with Seth’s child. In the opening sequence Veronica Quaife gives birth to Seth Brundle’s child and dies during childbirth (Geena Davis refused to reprise her role because there was no chance for character development due to the untimely death of the character).
It is soon established that this child is not entirely normal (guess he’s got some of his dad’s genes). Martin Brundle was born with a rare rapid growth disorder. The first five years (twenty-five in human years) of Martin’s life are portrayed by Matthew Moore and Harley Cross. The movie skips ahead to Martin turning five when he appears to be a full grown man played by Eric Stoltz. Martin’s entire life has been viewed under the watchful eye of shrewd business man Anton Bartok (Lee Richardson). Bartok was the financier of Seth Brundle’s experiments in the first film. Due to Seth and Veronica’s deaths, Bartok assumes custody of Martin.
Unbeknownst to Martin, Bartok is having him work on experiments in order to carry out the work of his father. Martin is twenty-five in human years at this point and his intellect has developed a superior intellect, which allows him to be able to follow in his father’s scientific footsteps. Bartok hopes that Martin can perfect the teleportation devices and Martin (unaware of his insect lineage) does not think twice about the task. In addition to developing a superior intellect, Martin begins to develop sophisticated emotions and falls in love with night shift computer file clerk Beth Logan (Daphne Zuniga). The newly matured Martin soon realizes Bartok’s true intentions, but it is too late. Martin’s metamorphosis is ready to begin.
This is the extent of which the plot needs to be discussed, because at this halfway point in the film it turns into a gruesome revenge flick of sorts. *Spoiler Alert* Once Martin transforms into the fly he tracks down each of the Bartok staff members who have manipulated and lied to him his entire life. Although it is slightly B-movie-esque, it is rewarding to see the bad guys get their just rewards.
There is an interesting dichotomy between the two fly creatures in the first and second films. When Jeff Goldblum transforms into “Brundlefly” in the first film, it is both sad and pitiful to watch his character suffer such a fate. When Stoltz transforms the viewer knows he has the opportunity to get some revenge. The distinction also showcases where each director’s intentions are laid. As previously stated Cronenberg’s theme of frailty of the flesh reaches its fruition when the once vibrant Seth turns into the monstrous creature whose fate is sure to be a sad one. Chris Walas’ creature has the opportunity to avenge himself and possible not suffer the same end that beset his father.
Walas’ effort as a director is top-notch considering it was his first time behind the camera. He had previously worked in makeup department on the Cronenberg’s Fly as well as Gremlins. He manages to get decent performances out of the actors and create a suspenseful and scary horror film. Walas’ endeavor should not be viewed in the same lens as Cronenberg’s because they are two different films with different objectives. Cronenberg wants to challenge the viewer and their notions of the limitations of the flesh, whereas Walas wants to make a fun and scary movie.
Aside from the fine directing, the acting of Eric Stoltz is first-rate. Stoltz successfully manages to capture the innocence and fragility of a boy who has adulthood thrust upon him. Stoltz transitions from child like wonderment and sensitivity to the darker dimensions of emotion with ease. Stoltz, being the consummate professional that he is actually turned down the role initially and only accepted after the script had been re-written. Daphne Zuniga manages to portray great empathy as Martin’s love interest. Lee Richardson is rather one-note as the archetypal villain, but it still effective. John Getz’s cameo is great reprising his role of Stathis Borans from the original Fly.
Rounding out this fine film are magnificent special effects and a great musical score. *Spoiler alert* Without giving away too much, the film is best remembered for two particularly gore scenes. One scene involved face melting, while the other has to do with a human head being introduced to an elevator shaft. The latter scene nearly earned the film an X rating. Additionally, Christopher Young’s memorable score is epic and rivals Howard Shore’s score for Cronenberg’s film. Young is also responsible for the masterful score of the horror classic Hellraiser.
Suffice to say, all the components of a great film are present in The Fly II. Unfortunately, the film has been unfairly compared to Cronenberg’s film, thus ruining its chances of succeeding on its own merits. If viewed strictly as a horror film, The Fly II is sure to satisfy any horror lover or gore hound.