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THE FLY 2, 1989
Movie Review

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THE FLY 2 MOVIETHE FLY 2, 1989
Movie Reviews

Director: Chris Walas

Starring: Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, John Getz, Frank C. Turner, Ann Marie Lee, Gary Chalk, Saffron Henderson
Review by Jane Hopkins


SYNOPSIS:

In this sequel to 1986’s “The Fly,” the mutated scientist’s son starts to follow in his father’s footsteps.

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REVIEW:

Some movies don’t need a sequel. Make that “most” movies. Of course, horror movies have a history of spawning franchises, and those franchises have a history of disgracing their source material. Luckily, once in a while there’s a horror sequel that doesn’t wind up a hideous mess, even if some of its characters do. Such a sequel is 1989’s “The Fly II.”

At the end of David Cronenberg’s 1986 masterpiece “The Fly,” Geena Davis’ character Ronnie is left pregnant with scientist Seth Brundle’s baby. The sequel opens with Ronnie (now played by Saffron Henderson) giving birth deep in the inner sanctum of Bartok Industries. Ronnie delivers a disgusting, pulsating pod, confirming her worst fears. She dies on the table; moments later, the doctors cut open the pod to reveal a seemingly normal human baby.

One year later, the baby already looks like a four-year-old boy. Apparently, Seth Brundle’s scrambled DNA did a number on his kid’s genetics, and as a result, little Martin Brundle is a genius who ages at four times the normal rate. The head of the company, Anton Bartok, acts as a father-figure toward Martin, but is clearly only interested in the boy for scientific reasons. In addition to researching Martin’s warped genetics, the company has acquired Seth Brundle’s old telepods, in the hope that they can perfect the teleportation process. Things get complicated when Martin turns five, and he begins to change. He’s more wilful, he falls in love, and of course, he starts transforming into a giant fly. Typical.

“The Fly II” was directed by Chris Walas, who won an Oscar for the special effects in “The Fly.” So, it’s not surprising that this sequel features top-notch animatronics and makeup. What’s especially admirable is that the Walas team approaches the two Brundles differently, rather than just rehashing the work they did three years earlier. Certain aspects of Martin’s “disease” are reminiscent of his father’s, but they’re altogether less haphazard. Whereas Seth’s transformation manifested itself as a hideous, painful illness, Martin’s is considerably more elegant. It results in a more symmetrical, streamlined appearance, and the kid even gets a giant cocoon in which to complete the process. Instead of a disease, Martin is truly undergoing a metamorphosis. The end result is also markedly different from the “Brundlefly” creature. Whereas the final Seth-fly hybrid was an uncoordinated, ramshackle mess, Martinfly is a predator out for revenge.

It’s this vengeance that gives the special effects team even more chances to shine. Those who thought “The Fly” was too gory aren’t going to be too thrilled with this sequel. When Martin finds out his entire life has been a lie, he doesn’t take it well. Once fully transformed, he embarks on a bloody rampage throughout the Bartok facility, destroying every living thing that doesn’t fall into the category of “dog” or “girlfriend.” Get ready for crushed skulls, shattered spines and melting faces. It’s easy to forget that for all the grisly effects, the creature in “The Fly” didn’t actually kill anybody. “The Fly II” is out to make up for that, apparently.

The effects team also comes up with some deeply disturbing mutant creatures. Without giving too much away, they cook up something really nauseating for the finale. Then of course there’s Timex, a long-suffered dog left disfigured by a failed teleportation experiment. As one of the scientists explains to a circle of amused colleagues, Timex is so named because he “takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’.” This set-up provides one of the most memorable scenes in the movie, which through the combination of good animatronics and sincere acting manages to be quite powerful.

The cast does a fine job. Eric Stoltz is sympathetic as Martin Brundle, both in and out of makeup. As Beth, Daphne Zuniga makes a pleasant love interest, struggling to deal with what’s happening to Martin. Reprising his role from the first film, John Getz is a very welcome presence as Stathis Borans. Now a bitter recluse with a prosthetic hand and foot, he isn’t above making puns about his past experiences. When Beth demands to know what happened to his compassion, without missing a beat Stathis replies, “I had to give it up. It cost me an arm and a leg!” Lee Richardson plays Anton Bartok as a manipulative monster who’ll sacrifice anyone in a heartbeat if it means achieving his aims, but he affects such a kind façade that we can see why Martin would trust him.

The rest of the cast lends able support, playing it straight when the temptation might have been to approach the material with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Even though it’s a revenge story, this movie still has a stronger emotional core than most other “splatter” films. In that way, it’s a worthy follow-up to its predecessor.

All the screenwriters for “The Fly II” went on to become significant players in the sci-fi/horror film business. Mick Garris went on to create the anthology series “Masters of Horror” and “Fear Itself,” while brothers Jim and Ken Wheat came up with the “Riddick” franchise. The fourth writer, Frank Darabont, is best known for directing such films as “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile.”

Just as Martinfly is a totally different animal from Brundlefly, composer Christopher Young makes no attempt to copy Howard Shore’s gorgeous music from “The Fly.” The two scores are similar in that both are grand and orchestral, but the music here is not quite as operatic as that in the previous film. Young’s music creates an unsettling atmosphere that works perfectly for this movie.

While “The Fly II” doesn’t quite live up to “The Fly,” it doesn’t try to. Even though it pays proper attention to character development, it’s more of a showcase for special effects and crowd-pleasing vengeance. If the viewer goes into the film expecting that, it won’t disappoint. The filmmakers were clearly committed to making an enjoyable movie, and their dedication pays off. As sequels go, “The Fly II” is a diverting film with a bleak tone, impressive creature effects and a solid story, so those foreboding roman numerals shouldn’t deter horror fans from checking this one out.

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THE FLY 2


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