Of the countles sub-genres of horror, body horror is one that I don’t often turn to. There’s just something too real, too personal about it. Sure, a madman wielding a weapon is scary, but you can (unless he’s teleporting Jason Voorhees) theoretically escape from that. You can’t, however, run from a horror that’s coming from within your very own bones, your blood. Author Chad Lutzke doesn’t have such reservations. As a matter of fact, he got into body horror as a kid, courtesy of the 1965 horror flick Curse of the Fly.
Chad Lutzke is a writer from Battle Creek, MI. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream. He is the author of dozens of short stories and books such as Of Foster Homes & Flies, Wallflower, Stirring the Sheets, Skullface Boy, The Same Deep Water As You, and The Pale White.
(Interview conducted by John Brhel)
CEMETERY DANCE: What book/movie/show/etc. got you into horror?
CHAD LUTZKE: After much thought, struggling to remember the genesis of my obsession with all things horror, I’m going to settle with the film Curse of the Fly.
When did you first see it?
I was somewhere between the age of 5 and 7, 1975-‘7.
Do you remember the circumstances under which you watched it? That’s not something you’d expect to put on for someone so young.
I do. I had tagged along with my parents over to their friend’s house where they played cards for hours. I was into horror at such a young age that I have a hard time recalling what the exact catalyst was, but seeing Curse of the Fly was definitely part of that. The horrific images of disfigured people from the film stuck with me for decades.
What is the movie about?
A woman escapes from a mental institution in the middle of the night and runs into the grandson of the man who created the teleportation system in the original The Fly, only this guy and his father have accomplished success. The man and woman fall in love, and she starts to find people around the grounds who have been subject to experiments which cause them to be disfigured and monster-like. Then there’s a whole thing about her new husband needing intermittent injections in order to keep at bay an aggressive form of aging. It’s wild!
Did it scare you or more so intrigue you?
The movie didn’t necessarily scare me. I was intrigued more than anything, completely fascinated. There were several scenes that showed faces and skin melted or disfigured, and it certainly kept me interested. Curse of the Fly is like the OG body horror film. I think one of the reasons why it stuck with me is because, while there were sci-fi elements, the horror was real. There was nothing supernatural here. It was something that could have happened (with the exception of teleportation). I recall at a very young age being curious about disfigurement, almost scared of it to a certain extent. Something I wanted to see yet scared to see at the same time.
Have you explored disfigurement or any of the themes of the movie in your own work?
I have. I wrote a short story called “Trash Baby Godfather” that deals with a baby who is severely disfigured…and vengeful. And of course the protagonist in my book Skullface Boy. Maybe my history with that film explains my love for Cronenberg and ’80s body horror.
Did it makes you seek out other Fly films? If so, how do you think Curse of the Fly compares with other installments?
It didn’t make me seek out more Fly films, just more horror everything, and I don’t think any of them compare to Cronenberg’s The Fly; though last night I watched Curse of the Fly for the first time since the ’70s (I thought the viewing would be appropriate preparation for this interview), and it still holds up. I think it’s completely underrated. The only Fly film I haven’t seen is Return of the Fly.
Do you have a favorite scene?
Probably the one that sticks out the most is the woman at the piano with half her body “melted.” There’s this Phantom-of-the-Opera-esque reveal and the lighting is perfect; but there’s something to be said about most of those older B&W films and how unsettling the light and dark contrasts are. Pretty much every time they showed anyone with a disfigured face was a memorable moment for me.
Would you recommend it to horror fans or is it too tame by today’s standards
Granted, a lot of the acting is subpar, but I found it more entertaining than a lot of older films that are considered classics. I doubt any of my kids would appreciate it, but I think those who enjoy the older B&W films would enjoy it.
Are you a fan of other older black-and-white horror movies?
Yes and no. I’ve got to be in the mood to watch something older like that. There’s a fascinating science behind nostalgia and because most of those films don’t necessarily scratch that nostalgic itch for me, I tend to watch them sparingly. Now, films made in the ’70s and ’80s, that’s a whole other thing. I grew up during those eras, so even if it’s a bad movie I’ll get a kick out of watching it. The graininess, the hues, the architecture, fashion. It’s like going to grandma’s house where you know it smells of moth balls and she’s got those funny hairs on her chin, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s comfortable.
Anything else you’d like to say about Curse of the Fly? Do you have any insect-based horror stories on the horizon?
No, no upcoming insect stories, but I do have a teleportation story in Night as a Catalyst, and there’s always room for more body horror.