main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Film: The Fly
"Be afraid. Be very afraid."


1. A short story by George Langelaan.

2. A 1958 Vincent Price horror movie, which is based on the above story. Has since become a Cult Classic.

A scientist invents a teleportation device. Unfortunately, when he tests it, a fly is in the chamber with him. The two switch heads and a hand, much to the chagrin of the scientist's wife. Now the family must find the fly that has his head and hand so he can properly switch them back before it's too late. Return of the Fly (1959) and Curse of the Fly (1965) are sequels.

3. David Cronenberg's re-interpretation of that film in 1986. The premise is similar, but advances in special effects and direction by David Cronenberg make things even stranger. This time, mild-mannered but brilliant quantum physicist Seth Brundle (played by Jeff Goldblum) is on the cusp of perfecting his matter transporter after meeting reporter Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis), the love of his life. The happiness is too good to last, as he is accidentally fused with a common housefly on a molecular-genetic level in a seemingly successful transportation experiment. Rather than creating an immediate monster, Veronica now must cope with the pain of watching her lover literally fall apart on a physical and emotional level, and the awful uncertainty of whether the child inside her was conceived before or after the fateful transportation...

Be sure to have antidepressants next to your box of tissues before you press play on your DVD player: you'll need both when the credits roll. And probably a barf bag for before, but that doesn't matter.

Both films have sequels, such as they are. Oh, and Howard Shore turned it into an opera.

These films provide examples of the following:

    open/close all folders 

    The series as a whole 
  • Body Horror: Across all incarnations it's the story of a man who becomes a fly, or something like it.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The Fly (1986): When Brundlefly face is peeled off to reveal his hideous form, his human eyes ooze away like pus.
    • The Fly II: At one point, during his transformation, Martin pulls out his right eye to reveal an insect eye behind it.
  • Merging Machine: All involve a scientist getting merged with a fly - half and half in the original (though the 1958 has both the head and left arm of the scientist and fly get reversed - the sequel Curse of the Fly has the iconic "man with fly head and vice-versa"), wholesome in 1986.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: In addition to the obvious, there's also the monkey-cat in a deleted scene. Averted in the sequel, as Martinfly is far less mashed up than his father.
    • Justified, as Martinfly is at least 75% human.
  • Science Is Bad
  • Teleporter Accident: The test animals (and even a steak) came out the worse for wear.
  • Tragic Monster: Most of the humanflies.

     The Fly (1958) 
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: During The Reveal in which his wife pulls off his hood, Andre's P-O-V is briefly shown, and he sees dozens of simultaneous images of her screaming face through his fly-head's compound eyes.
  • Billing Displacement: Price does not play the mad scientist, though most people think he does.
  • Downer Ending / Bittersweet Ending: Andre the scientist is forced to commit suicide because his fly components are degrading his human mind and they can't find the fly with human components. At the climax of the movie, the inspector gives a Mercy Kill to the fly-human just as it is about to be devoured by the spider. However, this convinces him that the scientist's wife is not a murderer and, with Francois the brother-in-law, he is able to concoct a plea-bargain that lets her avoid being hanged or condemned to the insane asylum. At the very end of the movie, the mother and son are moving on from the traumatic loss of the scientist, and it is implied that she is falling in love with Francois, who had always loved her from afar.
  • Evil Hand: The fly's appendage that replaces the scientist's hand becomes increasingly rebellious as his intellect frays.
  • The Reveal: Andre hides his fly-head from everyone (the audience included) under a hood, until his frustrated wife pulls it off during an argument.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Andre's wife Helene commits suicide in the original short story, while in the film, she gets better from her guilt.
  • The Speechless: After his botched teleportation, the scientist is unable to speak through his fly head. He communicates by typing, writing on a chalkboard, and knocking on tables.
  • That Poor Cat: The first test is unsuccessful.
    • In the original short story (bet you didn't know there was an original short story!), when the scientist, at his wife's urging, goes through the machine a second time in a futile attempt to unscramble things, bits of the cat get mixed in too (though a fly head with a cat nose and ears would've probably seemed more ludicrous than horrible).

    Return of the Fly (1959)
Curse of the Fly (1965) 

     The Fly (1986) 
  • Adorkable: Seth.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Brundle's decision to test the teleporter using himself comes after he's had more than few drinks.
  • Art Major Biology:
    • Brundle's mishap results from the computer's confusion at the presence of an extra genetic pattern, and its attempt to rectify the situation by fusing them. This conveniently ignores all the genetic material belonging to the bacteria and other microorganisms that make up a sizable proportion of the human body. Probably Artistic License, as otherwise there is no movie. (Though, it could be argued that the fly's genetic structure was sufficiently complex to confuse the computer, while nascent organisms were considered a part of the human body.)
    • Seth's body weight would not allow him to Wall Crawl, even if his bones were hollow at the time.
  • Beast and Beauty: Sort of. Brundlefly and Veronica, although she feels more like compassion, than love, for him.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Flies eat by vomiting acid. David "head explodey" Cronenberg is behind a giant fly movie. Do the math, genius.
  • Body Horror: Just about all of the pain and horror that Seth has to endure through his slow and humiliating metamorphosis.
    • Also anyone unfortunate enough to be spat upon by Brundlefly.
  • Break the Cutie: Seth.
  • Crazy Consumption
  • Cursed with Awesome: Even though the transformation makes Seth a diseased mutant, he gains several abilities, such as wallcrawling, corrosive vomit, and superhuman strength. It's unclear what the end result of Seth's changes would have been. The state he ultimately reaches (where he wordlessly begs for death by placing the muzzle of a shotgun to his own head) has at least as much to do with being caught partially outside the teleport pod when it activates as with having genetic problems.
  • Doomed Protagonist: One of the most agonizing examples.
  • Downer Ending
  • Drunk with Power / Sanity Slippage: Seth suffers this. At first.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: For all this film's darkness and horror, it does have a scene of Jeff Goldblum hugging a baboon.
    • And the baboon has a constant erection in the film. Just listen to the film commentary.
  • Expositron 9000: Brundle's computer.
  • Fan Disservice: The rough and animalistic sex scenes after Seth combines with the fly.
  • Fanservice: Brundle appears shirtless. A lot.
  • Fetus Terrible: The three foot long, blood and amniotic fluid covered maggot Veronica sees in her nightmare.
  • Focus Group Ending: The focus groups hated all of the possible endings, which included Veronica ending up with Stathis and the "Butterfly Baby." The cast wasn't real crazy about the various endings either; even Jon Getz, the actor who played Stathis, didn't want Veronica to end up with Stathis. Instead, the film closed on a weeping Veronica, which was really the proper ending to the film.
  • From Bad to Worse
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The premise of the entire film.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Almost averted. Veronica goes into panicked hysterics after seeing Seth's disgusting metamorphosis and Stathis immediately rushes her to an abortion clinic. At the end of the movie, it's implied that she probably will, but if we're going to consider the sequel canon, then she clearly didn't, because the sequel is about their son.
  • The Grotesque: Seth slowly becomes this.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Brundlefly.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A subtle one, as Seth is merged with his own telepod at the very end. Not only karmic as he was trying to use the pods to merge himself with Veronica and the unborn child, but also sort of Gaia's Vengeance from the start.
  • Hollywood Nerd: At the beginning of the movie, Mr. Brundle is quite muscular for a scientist who doesn't get out much. Not that any of the female viewers are complaining, or anything.
  • Hot And Cold: Veronica Quaife
  • Hotter and Sexier: Thanks to The Eighties.
  • I Am a Monster: Seth basically warns Veronica of this in his "insect politics" speech.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Seeing the pathetic creature that was once Seth Brundle crawl out of the Telepod, fused with pieces of machinery and in horrifying agony is probably sadder than watching the end of Old Yeller. This can obviously end only one way, and, in one final display of humanity, Brundlefly silently begs a shotgun-armed Veronica to end its life, and after some painful hesitation, she does.
  • Idiot Ball: Which ever way you slice it, going after a deranged half human hybrid that vomits acid and has double the strength of a normal man by yourself is a pretty stupid move. All Stathis Borans needed to do was phone 911 and tell them that a deranged ex-boyfriend abducted his girlfriend from the abortion clinic in a blind rage - the gaping hole in the surgery wall should be fairly adequate proof. Though, Stathis didn't go unarmed, bringing a shotgun with him.
  • In Name Only: There's a scientist who gets turned into a fly monster in a teleportation experiment. Other than that, it really has nothing to do with the Vincent Price film and even less to do with Langelaan's story. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Jerkass: Stathis Borans, Veronica's ex-boyfriend and boss appears to be one at first, but is actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
    • He transitions to being a straight Jerkass in the sequel.
  • Lab Pet: Dr. Brundle is much too attached to his baboons. This leaves him quite distraught when he turns one inside out.
  • LEGO Genetics: Averted, as the change in DNA affects him slowly as his cells replicate, and his final form isn't anything resembling a properly functioning body. (Though being fused with a telepod isn't exactly natural.)
  • Limited Wardrobe: Seth has five identical sets of clothing.
  • Love Triangle: The base emotional plot of Veronica choosing either Seth or Stathis as her lover, intensified when she feels the need to comfort the diseased Seth and finding Stathis' emotional side emerging from the conflict. That's probably why they made it an opera.
  • Metamorphosis: Essentially how Seth goes through his transformation.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Arguably implied by Brundle gradually losing his mind as he turns into a fly.
  • Nausea Fuel: For the first time since The Exorcist, this movie had people literally leaving the theater before it was over and retching. invoked
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Seth Brundle.
  • Non-Malicious Monster: Brundlefly tries to be this, although he kind of loses it at the movie's climax.
    • Though this wasn't true in the original screenplay, which had him vomiting on a homeless woman and preparing to eat her before he realized what he was doing.
  • Noodle Incident: Seth discovers he can't eat solid food "the hard and painful way". We're never told exactly what happened.
  • One-Sided Arm-Wrestling: Seth tears open a man's arm doing this.
  • One-Winged Angel: A truly terrifying example in the films climax; when Veronica rips off the jaw of Brundle's already heavily-deteriorating body, it promptly triggers the final phase of his metamorphosis, in which he sheds all of his human skin, including on his head, revealing the fully formed Brundlefly underneath.
    • Clipped Wing Angel: When the Brundlefly ends up getting fused with part of the telepod, leaving it helpless and in terrible, dying pain, although its clear that it was already a physically and mentally unstable creature before that.
  • Painful Transformation: A rare, slow and gradual example. Two, if you count the sequel.
    • Seth's metamorphosis into Brundlefly is a extended, humiliating process where he degenerates from a healthy and muscular man into a diseased monstrosity, rotting his flesh to the point that his extremities fall off (including his teeth, his fingernails, his fingers, his penis...), until his whole formerly-human skin sheds completely and he is ultimately reduced to a voiceless insectoid beast.
  • Phlegmings: Brundlefly excretes a sticky white liquid constantly, which he uses to dissolve and digest his food.
  • Sex God: Brundlefly becomes a sexual athlete. Subverted in that Veronica can't keep up and it becomes an unpleasant experience.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: Several of these with Seth and Veronica. One with Seth and Tawny.
  • Shirtless Scene
  • Show Some Leg: When Seth asks for an item he can use to demonstrate how the telepods work, and Veronica removes one of her stockings. He watches intently (if a bit awkwardly) as she does so. It's probably the Goldblumiest he has ever been.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: To avoid giving people the wrong idea, executive producer Mel Brooks (yes, that Mel Brooks) tried to keep his name away from the film. When this failed, he attended the premiere and handed out toy antennae.
  • Split Personality Takeover: Seth's mind also gradually changed into that of a brutal insect. Near the final stages of his transformation, Seth goes so far as to warn Veronica that it is starting to affect his mind, and he fears he will hurt her if she stays.
  • Stages of Monster Grief: Seth goes through all of them in his one-month transformation.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: While Drunk with Power, Seth utters some bizarre dialog. The utterances about the "power of flesh" is pure Cronenberg.
    Seth: You're afraid to dive into the plasma pool, aren't you? You're afraid to be destroyed and recreated, aren't you? I'll bet you think that you woke me up about the flesh, don't you? But you only know society's straight line about the flesh. You can't penetrate beyond society's sick, gray, fear of the flesh. Drink deep, or taste not, the plasma spring! Y'see what I'm saying? And I'm not just talking about sex and penetration. I'm talking about penetration beyond the veil of the flesh! A deep penetrating dive into the plasma pool!
  • Super Strength: Brundle merging with the fly gives him a mild form of this, enough to tear open a man's arm in an arm-wrestling contest.
  • Super Window Jump: At the abortion clinic, once Veronica is left alone in an operating room, Brundlefly does this before abducting her.
  • Sweet Tooth: Flies love sugar.
    Veronica: Do you normally take coffee with your sugar?
  • Tele-Frag: What Seth considered to be his life's work turned out to be his demise.
  • That Poor Monkeycat: Apparently the scene was so disturbing it had to be removed from the film's final cut.
    • The first baboon doesn't fare too well, either.
  • Tortured Monster: The monster (Seth Brundle post - Tele-Frag) is confronted by a shotgun-wielding Veronica Quaife, and grabs the business end of the shotgun and places it against its head. Tear Jerker moment, indeed.
  • Tragic Monster: Alas, poor Seth. Probably one of the most profound examples of this trope ever.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Used a lot, especially in the final scenes. Although we never get to see the externally digested food getting reabsorbed. Instead we get to see Stathis looking horrified. An unfilmed scene had Seth eating a bag lady, starting by melting her face.
  • Wall Crawl: Eventually, Seth can do this.

    The Fly II (1989) 
  • And I Must Scream: Bartok's karmic end has him reduced to a hideously deformed mutant crawling around in a pit, pitifully squirming around and barely able to even feed himself.
  • Asshole Victim: Pretty much everyone Martin kills after his transformation, especially the two scientists, who despite having raised him since birth never saw him as anything more than a lab rat and treated him like crap.
  • Big Bad: Anton Bartok.
  • Big "NO!": Bartok when Martinfly drags him into the telepod with him.
  • Body Horror: The dog, though averted with Martin's transformation, as most of it took place in a cocoon. Bartok wasn't so lucky...
  • Cursed with Awesome: Doubly so for Martin compared to his father, since his Martinfly form, while inhuman, turns out to be a coherent, seemingly healthy lifeform instead of a diseased, deformed mishmash of genetic goo (possibly due to being born with the fly genes instead of having them abruptly inserted into him as an adult). He's much more of a werefly/alien lifeform than the diseased corpse-like wreck Seth ended up turning into in the first film.
  • Death by Childbirth/Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Veronica at the beginning.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In stark contrast to the first movie.
  • Karmic Fate Worse than Death: Anton Bartok, the Big Bad, who let Martin undergo his transformation and finish the teleporter for his own greedy ends, is ultimately fused with Martin's insect genes through the teleporter, turning him to a hideously deformed mutant. It becomes even more karmic when the epilogue reveals that he's been placed in the same pit the mutated dog was earlier in the movie. It would have been even more so had the original scripted ending been shot: Mutant!Bartok would have begged the now completely human Martin to kill him, only for Martin to shake his head, say "Sorry, dad" and feed him the slop he eats in the last scene.
    • Red Shirt security guard Mackenzie has his face and eyes melted by acid and survives by ripping off the affected portions before it can completely eat through his head. However, given he can't see or speak, he would've been better off dying.
      • He didn't even do it on purpose, he was just reflexively clutching at the source of the pain. No only does the flesh come off in his hands, the flesh comes off his hands, too. And he's still conscious afterwards, with his face and hands stripped to bloody bone.
  • Lighter and Softer: In comparison to the first one at least. It still features a ton of grotesque imagery including seeing a dog get mutilated by a telepod experiment, and a guy peeling his face off after getting it covered in MartinFly's digestive juice.
  • Painful Transformation: Averted in the sequel, Martin's transformation is more natural as a deliberate counterpoint to Seth's. His body literally undergoes the life cycle of an insect - his rapidly growing human form is functionally a larvae, his deforming body the instar, he develops a cocoon/Pupa, and he emerges a powerful Insect/Man hybrid. The Martinfly creature is very strong, very fast, and very deadly... the opposite of his father.
  • Pet the Dog: The mutated protagonist of the sequel literally pets a dog in the middle of his murderous rampage through the facility.
    • Another example, a not so literal one, is Martinfly sparing Beth Logan, his love interest, when he encounters her at one point.
  • Research, Inc.: Bartok Industries
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Martinfly goes on an epic one through Bartok Industries.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Martinfly vomits on a security guard, and his face melts off. The guard barely survives by tearing off his own face before the vomit can kill him.
  • Younger than They Look: Martin Brundle in The Fly II, who ages to Mr. Fanservice level in about six years.

The Hitcher 100 Scariest Movie MomentsPet Sematary
The Dead ZoneCreator/David CronenbergDead Ringers
Horror of DraculaHugo AwardThe Time Machine
Fight ClubCreator/ 20 th Century FoxThe Fly II
Fluppy DogsAnimal Title IndexThe Fly II
Final DestinationFilm SeriesFlodder
The ExterminatorFilms of the 1980sThe Fly II
The Incredible Mr LimpetTransformation FictionAnimorphs
The Creature Walks Among UsFilms of the 1950sGodzilla
Flowers in the AtticHorror FilmsThe Fly II

alternative title(s): The Fly
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy