31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: THE FLY (1986)

CAST

Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park)
Geena Davis (The Exorcist TV)
John Getz (Curly Sue)
Joy Boushel (Terror Train)
Leslie Carlson (Highlander: The Series)

At a meet-the-press event sponsored by Bartok Science Industries, Seth Brundle, a brilliant, eccentric scientist, meets Veronica Quaife, a science journalist. Seth takes Veronica back to the warehouse which serves as both his home and laboratory, where he shows her a project that will change the world: a set of “Telepods” that allows instantaneous teleportation of an object from one pod to another. Brundle convinces Veronica to keep the project’s existence quiet in exchange for exclusive rights to the story, and she begins to document his work. Although the Telepods can transport inanimate objects, they cannot teleport living things, a test baboon is turned-inside out during an experiment.

Seth and Veronica soon begin a romantic relationship, and their first sexual encounter provides inspiration for Seth, who reprograms the Telepod computer to cope with living flesh. Shortly thereafter, he successfully teleports a second baboon. Seth wants to have a romantic celebration with Veronica, but she abruptly departs without telling him why. Seth’s judgment soon becomes impaired by alcohol and his fear that Veronica is secretly rekindling her relationship with her editor and former lover, Stathis Borans. In reality, Veronica has left to confront Borans about a veiled threat, spurred by his romantic jealousy of Brundle, to publish the Telepod story without her consent. Drunk and jealous, Seth hastily teleports himself, unaware that a common housefly has slipped inside the transmitter pod. Brundle emerges from the receiving pod, seemingly normal.

After Seth and Veronica reconcile, Seth exhibits what at first appear to be beneficial effects, such as increased strength, stamina, and sexual potency, and he mistakenly believes that the teleporter has improved and “purified” his body. Veronica, however, is more concerned about Seth’s growing mania and the strange, bristly hairs growing out of a recent wound on his back. Brundle quickly becomes unstable, intolerant and violent, and he tries to force Veronica to undergo teleportation. When she refuses, he abandons her to indulge in a barroom arm wrestling match and casual sex with a woman named Tawny, whom he picks up at the bar. Veronica’s next-morning arrival at the lab spares Tawny from being forcibly teleported. Brundle angrily throws Veronica out and dismisses her concerns about his health, but when his fingernails begin falling off, he realizes something went horribly wrong. He checks his computer’s records and discovers the Telepod computer, confused by the presence of a secondary life-form, merged him with the fly at the genetic level.

Four weeks later, Seth reaches out to Veronica, and theorizes that he is slowly becoming a hybrid creature, which Seth dubs “Brundlefly”. Now severely disfigured, Brundle exhibits fly-like characteristics, such as vomiting digestive enzymes onto his food, and the ability to cling to walls. He also realizes that his motives and compassion as a human are waning, replaced by savage impulses. Attempting to find a cure for his condition, Brundle installs a fusion program into the Telepod computer to dilute the fly genes in his body with more human DNA. To her horror, Veronica learns that she is pregnant by Seth, and cannot be sure when the child was conceived. After she has a nightmare of giving birth to a giant maggot, a terrified Veronica seeks a late-night abortion, only to be abducted by Brundle, who begs her to carry the child to term, since it could be the last remnant of his untainted humanity. Veronica sadly refuses, afraid that the child will be a hideous mutant. When Borans, armed with a shotgun, attempts to rescue Veronica, the horribly-degenerated Brundle dissolves Borans’ hand and foot with his corrosive enzyme.

Brundle then reveals his desperate, last-ditch plan to Veronica—he will use the three Telepods (the third pod being the prototype) to fuse himself, Veronica, and their unborn child together into one entity, so they can be the “ultimate family”. Veronica frantically resists Brundle’s efforts and accidentally tears off his jaw, triggering his final transformation into a monstrous hybrid. The “Brundlefly” creature traps Veronica inside Telepod 1 and steps into Telepod 2. However, the wounded Borans uses his shotgun to sever the cables connecting Veronica’s Telepod to the computer, allowing Veronica to escape unharmed. Breaking out of its own pod just as the fusion process is activated, Brundlefly is gruesomely fused with the metal door and cabling of Telepod 2. As the mortally-wounded Brundlefly/Telepod creature crawls out of the receiving pod, it silently begs Veronica to end its suffering with Borans’ shotgun. Veronica tearfully hesitates, then pulls the trigger, and starts crying on in sorrow.The Fly is a creative and gross but nevertheless awesome movie with great performances and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: BEETLEJUICE

CAST

Michael Keaton (Birdman)
Alec Baldwin (Mission Impossible 5)
Geena Davis (The Fly)
Winona Ryder (Star Trek)
Glenn Shadix (Hercules: TLJ)
Annie McEnroe (Wall Street)
Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone)
Jeffrey Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Robert Goulet (Two Guys & A Girl)

Fun Halloween movies more often than not fall flat on their faces; I’d say that Beetlejuice is the best in years. The straightforward script by Michael McDowell (The Nightmare Before Christmas) and Warren Skaaren (Batman ’89) posits Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin & Geena Davis) as the cute owners of a hilltop house in New England, who run afoul of “life-continuance issues.” As ghosts in the next world, they fail to absorb the wisdom in a thoughtfully provided Guidebook for the Dead, and are horrified when a New York family moves in and begins remodeling their happy home.
Charles (Jeffrey Jones) is a financial adviser taking a break from the strain. His wife Delia (Catherine O’Hara), an artist hungry for recognition, insists on turning the house into an avant-garde eyesore. Daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) dresses in widow’s black and luxuriates in morbid thoughts. The Maitlands make contact with Lydia, who is delighted until her parents attempt to co-opt the ghostly tenants as a moneymaking status symbol (this is the 1980s, after all). But Adam and Barbara have troubles too. Frustrated by the red tape they find in the afterlife — pictured as a welfare office manned by the acerbic Juno (Sylvia Sydney) — the Maitlands are so keen to evict the new owners that they summon the services of the demon Betelgeuse, aka Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), an obscene, unkempt imp who bills himself as a “bio-exorcist” — a Ghostbuster in reverse.
Filmmaker Tim Burton may work within a limited range of themes, but in his personal playroom there’s nobody better. Beetlejuice is crammed with visual invention and whimsical allusions. The Maitlands’ moment of crisis on a New England-style covered bridge is a lampoon of a Norman Rockwell “human interest” painting, complete with a “cute” dog. Delia is obsessed with annoyingly aggressive modern artworks. When possessed by spirits, one of her sculptures crawls like the brain-things in Fiend Without a Face and another engulfs Delia like an Iron Maiden (one of umpteen recurring motifs in Burton films). Charles’ attempt to relax through bird watching results in an hilariously black comedy throwaway gag worthy of Charles Addams.
The pushy small town real estate agent (Annie McEnroe) balances the script’s New York snobs, played by Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett. In his best film appearance, Cavett dismisses poor Delia as a consummate flake. Burton uses the gathering to pull off an uproarious musical number, using Harry Belafonte music to great effect. Glenn Shadix’s conniving art hustler Otho is forced to dance along to the calypso beat. As the ultimate humiliation, Beetlejuice throws Otho into a brightly colored leisure suit. Otho’s reaction proves that horror is where one finds it.
 The over-the-top Michael Keaton figures in only about of the third of the show, which is perfect judgment. Beetlejuice rattles on like Robin Williams, eats bugs and tries out the raunchier jokes. Running his bio-exorcism racket like a used car lot, Beetlejuice hangs out at the brothel in Adam’s miniature model of the town; to scare the humans he turns into a manic phantasmagoria of illusions. The character was such a success, it was incorporated into a theme show for the Universal Tour.
Winona Ryder is the first live-action representative of Burton’s ideal introvert’s girlfriend, initially represented as a portrait of the “Lost Lenore” in his animated short Vincent. Since then Burton’s dream girls, from the Corpse Bride to Helena Bonham Carter in Sweeney Todd have all had tiny chins and soulful eyes … hmm … Burton’s ego-surrogate Johnny Depp follows the same pattern. Like Natalie Portman in Mars Attacks!, Lydia suffers in the shadow of overbearing parents but blooms when confronted by real adventure — in this case her friendship with the dead. Even in the afterlife, the Maitlands continue to be caring individuals. This makes Beetlejuice less of a horror spoof than a charming addition to the ranks of Films Blanc.
Tim Burton’s arts ‘n’ crafts visual sense invests Beetlejuice with several arresting stylized environments. The yuppie heaven of the Maitland home gives way to Delia’s Manhattan tastes. The attic has Alec’s hobby world, the miniature map of the town. A hole in a brick wall leads to the expressionist bureaucracy of Juno’s welfare office, where an ordinary janitor mops the floors of Caligari-like corridors. Beetlejuice can slip between dimensions as long as he’s given a verbal passport, like Rumplestiltskin. Seen first in cheesy advertisements, Beetlejuice can inhabit Alec’s miniature as well as perform fantastic transformations. He appears as a gaudy carousel and as a giant demon-snake (courtesy of stop-motion animator Ted Rae). Turning the comedy to a darker tone, Beetlejuice resurrects Alec and Barbara as Dia de los muertos wedding ghouls. He summons a toad-like preacher from hell for his marriage to the dazed Lydia — who finds herself outfitted in a scarlet wedding dress. All of this great fun is at the expense of Fritz Lang, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, with free public service messages thrown in about smoking and Ecuadorian headshrinkers. In the spirit of playfulness, Burton leaves us with a literally uplifting calypso coda. Lydia spoke idly of suicide, but her happy times with the dead