Halloween Scene: The Fly (1986) & The Came From Within (aka Shivers) (1975)

I know, I know. Yesterday I said I was going to watch The Fly remake and its sequel today, but after having so much fun with David Cronenberg’s wild take on the original 50s classic, I decided to switch the theme from flies to Cronenberg and watched Shivers (or They Came From Within, but I like the one-word title and not just because it’s shorter).

Much as I was charmed by the original Fly, I liked the remake a lot more as a horror movie and as a story in general. I like that, this time around, the scientist (Jeff Goldblum) isn’t married to the girl (Geena Davis) who is a reporter for a science magazine instead of a doting wife. I also like that the story is more linear than the original because it doesn’t cut the legs out from under the drama (we know he’s dead in the first few minutes, we just don’t know who or what he is at that point). Plus, how can you go wrong with the scenes of Goldbulm’s parts falling off. I’ve watched a lot of horror movies this month, but I think this might be the only one to give me the willies (regular readers with better memories might be able to correct me on that one as my memory sucks).

I think that this might have been my first full, unrated viewing of the movie. Like I said yesterday, I knew the basic plot, but that was from seeing the movie on TV. I don’t remember giving it a rent when I was a budding horror fan back in the day, but it could have happened (remember that bad memory I mentioned?). I’m on board with people who think this is a great horror movie even if, as a comic book and horror fan, I’ve been significantly smashed in the face with the whole “scientist getting obsessed with his project and not caring about anything else” storyline. The effects, the script (I didn’t realize “Be afraid, be very afraid” came from this movie) and the casting are all spot on. Goldbulm first looks like a geeky scientist and then a fly creature, Davis looks like a kinda nerdy science journo (though not a very good one as it takes only a matter of days for her to sleep with her subject, what would Gay Talese say?). The awful clothing and hair can be a little distracting at times, but overall I really, really liked this flick. A question to Fly fans, is Fly II worth a watch? I’ve never seen it.

Shivers is kind of a combination of Dawn of the Dead and Towering Inferno with some Alien effects thrown in. The interesting part? The movie was made before Dawn (1978), was made before Alien and only really share a similar kind of setting with Inferno (which only came out the year before). The idea is that these people live in a huge building with all the amenities (medical facilities, stores, all that kind of stuff, so basically a really tall mall you can live in without have to fly in via helicopter). As it happens, a scientist who lived in the building was developing a parasite that would break man down to his basic urges. He supposedly killed them all, but that’s not the case and these weird worm things spread throughout the building making crazy sex zombies who just want to bone you and pass on the blood and sex lust to you.

Like The Fly, this movie has some spectacular effects. The scene reminiscent of Alien comes when a guy has one of the parasites in his stomach expanding inside, much like the chest buster. I can’t remember if Shivers influenced Alien or if the effects just happened at the same time. Cronenberg’s vision obviously grew in the ten or so years between these two movies, but you can see where he was coming from here.

Even though Cronenberg was known for being a really out-there director, it’s surprising how many still-taboo elements he dealt with this in the movie. You’ve got sexually transmitted disease, sexual assault, murder, pedophilia, the place of lust in society and what can happen if man gives over to his animalistic tendencies. It’s not exactly clear where the director comes down on these subjects, which is cool because it gives the viewer room to make their own decisions. Even though it’s brave, the movie could have done with some editing. Much like Scanners, this movie takes a lot of time not to get going but to get from middle to end. Luckily, by the time he did The Fly, it seems like Cronenberg learned a little bit about brevity.

I can’t remember if I first saw this movie as a rental from my beloved Family Video back in the day, but I do know that I purchased it my Freshman year of college from a going-out-of-business mom and pop video store in my college town. I went a few times and bought Dawn of the Dead (in a Day of the Dead box), Mom, Hot Potato and this one on VHS. I’ve watched it a bunch of times and even converted it to DVD thanks to my combo, recordable VHS/DVD unit. It’s actually pretty fun watching the movie with all the weird hiccups of a tape, but on DVD. There’s something great about that look that really works for older, smaller budget movies. I didn’t realize it, but the tape has an extra feature at the end with Cronenberg talking about the movie. I didn’t watch it this time around, though I might in the next few days. I think I’m going to watch a few un-reviewed favorites tomorrow starting with Dawn of the Dead. We’ll see where I wind up from there.

Halloween Scene: Camp Fear (1991) & The Fly (1958)

Today’s movies have the thinnest of connections: two of the lead actors are named Vincent. Aside from that and the fact that they might both be listed under the horror section is about it, but I wanted to watch the original Fly and then the newer ones within a limited time frame and this seemed like the best way to do it.

I decided to give Camp Fear a shot because I just did a post on Topless Robot about camps you don’t want to send your kids to, plus, it turned out that I had watched a portion of it, so it seemed like I was already ahead of the curve. Well, I didn’t remember anything from my first viewing of the movie (I’m guessing I was playing Netflix Roulette one night while a little tipsy) and restarted it. Man, this one is a stinker, though it starts off with what seems like some promise if you’re a fan of nubile young women walking around topless as we start off in a sorority house filled with unabashed young women waiting in line for the shower. From there it goes downhill. The setup for the movie is that a group of college women is going to the woods with their hot young professor and his girlfriend to look for fossils (he’s an anthropology professor). While there, they discover a monster in the woods who wants to kill them. Okay, cool, right? Nope. After the opening scene we’re forced to sit through the prof’s lecture. After that? The girls meet up with the prof and his girlfriend at a club where the band cancels and one of the girls gets up and sings a song she wrote with accompaniment from the juke box. Huh? The next day, they somehow all get into a car (one girl without her knowing) and find themselves at a gas station complete with old man owner, wino and a group of bikers who show up and take the form of the human villains in the movie.

Eventually the get to the camp site and everyone splits up, which makes the hot blonde girl an easy target for the monster running around (we’re supposed to think it’s this Native American dude we saw earlier). Turns out, the monster is actually a druid who somehow survived all these years in the woods. I think there’s also a lake monster of some kind? I’ll be honest, after 30 minutes of no horror and very little after that, I was pretty bored by this movie. I recommend completely avoiding it as it has no redeeming qualities. Everything about it looks fake and bad (except for the druid monster and the weird cavewoman clothes the blonde wears which looked surprisingly good). The supposed sorority house looks just like a regular house with way too many chicks living in it, the school a strip mall and there isn’t even a freaking camp in this thing! False advertising! I guess if you’re looking for some skin, watch the first 10 or so minutes and then move on to something that doesn’t waste all your time.

Something like the original version of The Fly. I went into this movie having seen the original on TV and remembering chunks of the plot but without being an expert. I also knew that Vincent Price was in it, which got me excited, but it turns out he doesn’t play much of a role in the film. Going in, I figured it would be about a scientist who develops some kind of technology that he tests on himself, gets mixed up with a fly and then moves on from there, but the interesting thing about this flick is that it starts at the end, with the scientist dead and his wife claiming to be the murderer. For the first 20 minutes or so it’s a bit of a mystery movie, with the audience trying to figure out 1) why this guy died under a massive press and 2) why his wife is freaking out about flies. Because I figured the plot would be linear, I assumed the transformation would be the result of Price’s actions (he plays the scientist’s brother), so I wasn’t looking for clues as to what was going on with the mystery. It took me a little longer than I’d like to admit to catch on to what was really happening: the scientist was actually part fly after the accident and the fly was part scientist flying around.

As it turns out, we’re shown exactly what went on thanks to an extended flashback with the wife explaining what happened to Price and another man. We see the scientist do his experiment and later wearing a bag over his head and accidentally revealing his creepy bug claw communicating with his wife.

Aside from trying to figure out how the elements I already knew would play out in this completely different film, I was also surprised at how good the scientist’s giant bug head looked once it was finally revealed. You always worry with these older films that the effects will look crummy, but I dug it. I also dug the psychological aspect of the movie when it comes to the wife. She explains exactly what happened, but people think she’s crazy, though Price gets convinced. See, there’s no proof because the press she used on the scientist was specifically used to crush his bug parts into non existence. Advised to find the fly, Price tries only to not hear the fly’s calls of “Help me, help meeeee.” Though Price doesn’t have a lot to do until the end of the film, he’s excellent as always. His enthusiasm for helping the wife is infectious.

I did have a few problems. Creepy as the final spiderweb scene is, it doesn’t look great nowadays, but I give them credit for trying to do what sounds like an impossible feat back then: putting a human looking head on a tiny fly body. The finish of that scene really takes away from the brief look at effects that don’t hold up so well. My bigger problem with the movie is the set-up of the story. I’m not quite sure what the point of doing things out of chronological order is aside from the ever so brief mystery element that winds up not really mattering. I’ll have a much better ability to compare the structure of this film to its latter day follow-up tomorrow, but I think I like the structure of the newer one better.

Anyway, overall, the original Fly was a lot of fun to watch. I can say without a doubt that these double feature Halloween Scenes have introduced me to some great older movies I might not have watched otherwise, so that’s always a plus. I am looking forward to taking a break come next month, though I do have a less ambitious plan for then that I’m keeping to myself for now.