Having recently reviewed The Fly, I feel duty-bound to take a look at its much maligned sequel. I am something of a completist when it comes to genre films, and I hadn’t seen the follow-up to Cronenberg’s brilliant re-imagining (as it would doubtless be described in Hollywood today) in quite some time. Invariably it receives pretty withering reviews, but who knows? Perhaps time had been kind to it. Optimism is my middle name! (Not really.)
Sadly, I can confirm that this is not the case. The Fly II remains an ineffectual horror that skirts around a handful of potentially interesting ideas but commits to nothing except upping the goo factor. The emotional core of its predecessor was the relationship between Jeff Goldblum’s scientific genius and Geena Davis’ journalist; a witty, touching and ultimately heartbreaking love story. The attempt to replicate that here between Goldblum and Davis’ son Martin, played by Eric Stoltz, and a research scientist (Daphne Zuniga) also employed by Bartok emphatically fails to match it.
Chris Walas, who won an Oscar for his creature make-up in the first film, steps in to the director’s chair and is clearly out of his depth. Where Cronenberg utterly rejected the 1950s monster movie formula of cardboard characters, simplistic plots and nonsensical science, The Fly II quickly settles down into this well trodden path. Whether it’s the dumb scientists who divide their time between torturing test subjects and sleeping when they should be observing, the obnoxiously evil security guard who so thoroughly deserves his inevitable sticky demise, or the ruthless industrialist only out to make a buck, it’s all so terribly predictable.
There’s also a detectable movement away from the adult tone of The Fly towards a more adolescent audience. The big conclusion forgoes the moving operatic tragedy of part one in favour of a big monster stalking corridors, bumping people off one by one – and even this is not particularly exciting or suspenseful. The final shot is certainly grim, but feels needlessly nasty and unpleasant.
Neither does it have any of the subtlety seen in the original. Cronenberg injected a touch of dark humour with Brundle’s transformation (such as memorably vomiting over a box of doughnuts before eating them). Part two slavishly following the equation “More = Better” and rams any and all fly imagery down your throat, just in case you’ve forgotten it’s a Fly movie. The best it can come up with is Martin being enthralled by one of those blue insect-killing lights. Which is just a bit silly really.
‘Like Father, Like Son’ was the tagline for The Fly II. Nothing could be further from the truth: in every conceivable way this offspring is inferior to its masterful parent.