Friday, November 20, 2009

The Stuff (Larry Cohen, 1985)

A cautionary tale for all those who enjoy consuming dessert products on a regular basis, The Stuff is a hokey horror farce that manages to skewer everything from mindless consumerism to cold war paranoia, and yet, still be a movie about homicidal yogurt not from outer space. Now I could take the crude route when describing this gooey undertaking – you know, use a lot of vulgar innuendo and tawdry wordplay. But instead, I've decided to take a more classy approach; the kind the whole family can enjoy. Erupting from the fertile mind of writer-director Larry Cohen, this sticky satire is basically: Attack of the Thick White Fluid. Expect, unlike The Blob and other ooze-based creatures, the titular stuff enters the human body without any resistance. Masquerading as a sort of creamy mouthwash, it lures you to inhale its milky load thanks to its sweet taste and the symmetrical hardness of its outer shell. You see, all the intended victim has to do is firmly grab the shaft-like container with one hand, while gingerly manipulating the circular opening with the other, and after a short period of time, the deepness of their throats will be awash with a tasty non-dairy treat. Of course, you'd think that ingesting the pasty fluid orally would somehow hamper its effectiveness – after all, I've never heard of anyone getting in trouble for swallowing goo. However, that what makes the stuff so potent, it prays on your inherent hunger for coagulated seepage.
Mocking advertising, corporate greed, and giving Michael Moriarty (Q: The Winged Serpent) a chance to practice his shoddy Southern accent, this tale of sentient food gone amuck is loaded biting social commentary. The stuff in The Stuff literally comes out of the ground, and since it tastes good, it's immediately rushed into stores nation wide. The speed in which The Stuff becomes a success alarms the members of the ice cream guild. In response, they hire Mo Rutherford (Moriarty), an overconfident industrial saboteur whose job it is to find out what makes "The Stuff" so popular. (The ingredients are mystery.)

This investigation uncovers a conspiracy involving shady FDA employees (Danny Aiello), crazed stockholders (Garrett Morris), an equally crazed army Colonel (Paul Sorvino), and Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci), an attractive ad director; in fact, Nicole is the one who came up with the name and designed the chic tub it comes in.

On the domestic front line of this confectionery invasion is a boy named Jason (Scott Bloom), who, after observing some irregular movement inside his refrigerator at 4AM, is quickly wise to The Stuff's sinister agenda. The enlightened scamp takes this new-found knowledge to the nearest supermarket and proceeds to kick the living gunk out of every tub of The Stuff he can get his little Stuff-hating hands on.

Without a doubt, the finest sequence in the entire film, the sight of a severely pissed off child of 1980s laying waste to an entire dairy section was downright enthralling. I mean, a movie about a deadly wad of mucilaginous paste was the last place I expected to see such an anti-corporate message. Sure, on the surface it seemed like it just your average scene involving a boy busting up the dessert aisle, but there was definitely something cathartic about watching a child, the biggest dupes when it comes to being targeted by advertising, lash out against the system.

The effects in The Stuff were primitive, yet highly effective. Besides, how hard is it to make white sludge appear menacing? The best Stuff usage was when The Stuff attacks Moriarty and the lovely Marcovicci in their motel room. The way it sprayed against the wall had a real spastic flavour to it; reminding me of something I saw in John Carpenter's The Thing, except a tad more whitish.

The ads for The Stuff that played sporadically throughout the film were scary; in that, they were a little too authentic looking. So much so, that I had a serious hankering for some Stuff on several occasions.

Anyway, as far as movies that feature sentient food with world domination on their to-do list, you can't do better than The Stuff, an icky, cinematic treat that comforts the body, mind and soul.

video uploaded by PIMannix


  1. I still can't believe they got Chocolate Chip Charlie...

  2. I did enjoy this one. Saw it with my buddies years ago on video. Thanks for reminding me of it. Have a great weekend.

  3. Dude...

    oh. my. god. I'm excited.

  4. Synth Britannia, eh? Sounds sweet.

  5. It was awesome. We have a DVD player that allows you to watch You Tube videos, so we watched all eight installments on the big screen television. I kept thinking, "Yum-Yum's going to dig this."

  6. I was just thinking about how cool it would be if you could YouTube videos (like the Dog Police and The Flirts) on your television, and here you are saying that you're doing just that. Weird, mildly stuff.

    Anyway, I'll try to watch Synth Britannia later tonight. (Synthpop docs should be viewed at night.)

  7. Great review. Been a mighty long time since my last Stuff viewing, now I need to check it out again.

  8. Cohen is a deity amongst the American 70s/80s horror / cult / thriller directors, sadly overlooked as Bartel, Girdler and Hobbs are... no comparisons - just same eras. I looked at The Stuff about two weeks ago(right next to The Blob and The Curse - notice a pattern... sorta?) Nah, it wasn't my first viewing, but it definitely was a change of perspective, 15 years later. I just wanted to polish some ego and mention how fun your blogs, to read, are.

    EEEnough is never enough EEEnough is never enough.