THE STUFF bills itself as a horror film. In the first ninety seconds of the movie, an old man stumbles across a strange, white goo bubbling up out of a snow bank. Using old man logic, he eats a dollop of it, and finding it tasty, suggests to a friend that they mine it and sell it as food. Naturally. It turns out that The Stuff is both sentient and addictive, and The Stuff spreads as one of America's favorite snack foods.
I'm tempted to say that the movie is a satire on the mindless consumerism of capitalist culture (especially as it was manifest in the mid-eighties when the movie was released). There's almost no doubt that this kind of morality was on the filmmaker's minds -- there's a lot of fun poked at commercials, and there are at least half a dozen scenes where characters discuss the evils of The Stuff with big, name brand ads (Marlboro, McDonald's, and Mobile gas stations) featured prominently in the fore- and background. Aha! People are too crazy about hoarding "stuff" the movie seems to be saying in a message that's about as subtle as clown shoes.
The problem is that the plotting and story are so haphazard and chaotic that the satire is lost in sheer stupidity. The movie is more senselessly frenetic than a Prodigy music video played at double the speed. I'm pretty sure that the editor must have been on an heroic amount of coke, because the pacing and cohesion of the scenes is tissue thin. Characters appear out of nowhere. Events occur rapid fire with a sporadic sense of timing. Establishing shots are nearly nonexistent.
The really weird thing is that there's very obviously the mood that this is all supposed to make sense. Our protagonist -- a business spy/saboteur named Moe (played by an actor who -- very literally -- uses the exact same facial expression to convey everything from lust, horror, anger, fear, and relief) -- makes wild, logical leaps in fractions of a second, and the audience is expected to understand intuitively his train of thought. Like a five year-old kid trying to explain the plot of a Harry Potter film, the film obviously knows in its own mind what it's going for, but its execution is not just spotty: it's blotchy. It's the narrative equivalent of a Pollock painting. There's no telling what events lead to what causes, nor the motivation behind anyone's actions. And that applies just as much to The Stuff itself. The whole film is truly baffling.
So why four stars? Because it's freaking hilarious. If I thought for a second that this level of humor was intentional, this film would get five stars from me. And even though I'm a connoisseur of the B-, C-, and D-grade of MST3K style viewing material, I still rarely find a film that's as cheesily satisfying as this one. From the very first frame, when the old man inexplicably starts lapping up the strange white bubbling goo, you know this movie has no idea what it's doing, and the very fact that thousands of dollars and man hours were spent in bringing it to your screen makes it even sweeter than the eponymous dessert treat. The fact that it sincerely THINKS it's making sense -- and in a dark and insistent way -- makes its lunacy all the more poignant, adorable, and hilarious.
If you're a hardcore horror enthusiast who brooks no substitutes, stay away. But if you have a sense of humor about the world today, and if you're looking for a goofy film to riff on with your friends, and ESPECIALLY if you're searching for a wild card film to play on a Halloween party eve with some soused compadres, you can't do much better than this misguided, eighties treatise on consumer culture and pasty-white after-dinner treats.
on November 17, 2000
Got the DVD - i've been a fan of The Stuff ever since it came out. I love Larry Cohen movies, but this, by far, is his most intriguing. I almost had a heart attack when I saw it was available on DVD. The film is great - accept its many flaws and hammy dialogue - because it's worth checking out for its pure brashness and unflinching consumer pops.
For all of you out there who want to know how it translates to DVD - let me explain. The print is of very good quality and sound. Everything is fine in those departments. There's only one criticism I have about the DVD transfer - it brings out the special effects and spoils them. There are numerous moments throughout the film where it blatantly uses blue screen and those shots are very noticeable and apparent. They're not so bad in the video version. Apart from that, everything's great. The menu screen is excellent and inspiring; a splat of the white goo slurps and bubbles over the menu screen to the music from the film. But what I really fell in love with was the director's commentary from Cohen. He rarely stops speaking and goes into minute attention to every detail as it happens. What a great guy. Find out for yourself and buy the DVD - a very worthwhile purchase (particularly because the video is hard to find).
on September 18, 2004
As a rather unsubtle allegory of mindless consumerism The Stuff works quite well. It'd be easy to dismiss it as an 80's shlockfest but there is some brains behind it and Larry Cohen (the very man who wrote Maniac Cop, Phone Booth and Cellular) keeps the film fun until the last frame.
It's a cool story too. A weird goo oozes out of the ground in a quarry and it tastes good. So good in fact that within days it's being sold in mass, mass, incredibly mass quantities to the whole country. People are having it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desert and supper. They feed it to their pets and put it in their coffee. Enough is not enough as the slogan goes.
Rival candy companies don't like the look of this and hire a very smooth industrial spy, David `Mo' Rutherford, to find out exactly what it is. What he finds is rather sinister indeed. And with the help of a commercial maker, a runaway kid and a gung-ho militia leader he tries to put a stop to The Stuff.
My main problem is that the origins off The Stuff and its `intentions' are never fully revealed or exploited. It ends without a satisfactory explanation which is quite a shame considering how much potential is wasted. There are stories that Larry Cohen cut 30 minutes of erm...stuff from the movie and perhaps there's more to the missing scenes. But for what it is, The Stuff, is a fun 90-minute movie that will not linger in your memory too long after seeing it.
Anchor Bay's DVD of The Stuff presents the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is generally clean and dirt free but has some trouble in a few scenes. The Mono sound is adequate and tolerable but the ADR is too apparent in the early scenes and there are brief drop-outs towards the end. A commentary by Larry Cohen is also included.
on March 8, 2014
A man stumbles across a delicious, pulsating gooey substance bubbling out of the ground at an industrial mining site, which he immediately touches, sniffs and tastes. WHAT!?! Now I'm no geologist, but when I encounter mysterious STD-like, sticky, gobbledy-gook discharges oozing from Mother Earth's orifices I tend to keep a safe distance. I mean, why was it bubbling? Was something alive under the surface? Was it super hot? Is it loaded with some dangerous bacteria or fungus or virus? I doubt I'd touch it…let alone taste it! Did this guy not see The Blob (1958, 1988)? If he had seen The Blob I bet he'd of thought twice.
But low and behold it turns out to be a sweet, tasty treat which is readily--basically overnight--mass manufactured as a domestic dessert staple. This film is cleverly complete with television commercials for "The Stuff," marketing it as an adult snack with the tagline "enough is never enough." This tongue-in-cheek propagandist approach reminds me of They Live (1988) as we observe so much social commentary on the American practices of consumerism, advertising, and corporate and FDA ethics.
Like in so many other stories, a young boy (Jason) discovers something just isn't right when he sees The Stuff crawling around in his refrigerator. Jason won't eat The Stuff after seeing it meandering around the some Tupperwared leftovers, but his parents do and they've been acting weird. Like buying a year's supply of The Stuff and throwing away all of their other food in the trash weird.
Luckily, an investigator (Mo) for a competing snack food company is also going around trying to figure out what The Stuff is made out of--and he's not getting answers. It seems that all of the FDA folks who so suspiciously and swiftly approved the product have all left the country. Hmmmm…nothing strange going on here. Just regular everyday FDA stuff, right?
A theme song plays "one lick is never enough of The Stuff" and Models lasciviously lick spoonfuls of this homicidal yogurt; Jason's mother testifies that she lost 5 pounds on a Stuff-only diet; and Jason's father attests that it "kills all the bad stuff inside us"… just drink the Kool-Aid and the allegory cranks on. The satire is so blatant that it's never obscured by the clumsy storytelling, which make the movie all the more entertaining.
The Stuff functions like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). You come into contact with it (via ingestion), and it gradually "replaces" you with a Stuff-replicant that's like you, but not quite right. Once infected, the goal simply becomes to get everyone else infected…but not by force. When Jason refuses to eat The Stuff his parents angrily ground him, sending him to his room until he conforms. When Jason "fakes" eating it, his family is pleased.
The effects include evil stop-motion marshmallow fluff and the gore and facial prosthetics are pretty good for the 80s and remain most entertaining today. At times, The Stuff oozes around like The Blob. But I was quite impressed with the pacing, however schizophrenically haphazard (LOL). Much of the movie (most of the middle) was without interesting effects, yet the utterly brash satire and senselessly incohesive scene transitions of it all keep me laughing. Characters seem to come out of nowhere without ever having been established, then they may never be seen again regardless of the rapport they may have built. The randomness is major! For example, a conspiracy-theory-toting general leading a resistance to The Stuff happens to own two radio stations to spread his message. Oh, and his "army" takes taxi cabs when travelling in military convoys. WTF!?! Oh, and an infected guy just strolls past this army security by making a scene. Oh, and a cookie industry mogul has some ancient kung fu fists of steel. Oh, and this one Stuff-infected dog was his Stuff-infected owner's boss. Huh? Just bonkers!
Curiously, we never really find out where the stuff came from. Did it well up from deep beneath the Earth's surface, did it crash land on a meteor like The Blob (1988), or did it come in a spaceship like The Thing (1982, 2011)? We also never learn its purpose. It's clearly smarter than the mindless consuming machine of The Blob. But was it "trying" to take over the world like in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) or peaceful domination like in The Live (1988)? No motive is ever revealed.
This movie (or, AHEM, it's writer/director) may have exhibited all of the smooth storytelling of an over-excited 5-year old trying to explain something he didn't really understand in the first place. But like a child fumbling over his thoughts in a word-salad of excitement, The Stuff is not without its own special brand of charm. This movie and its franticly forced social commentary are hilarious and it is well worth a watch.
MORE MOVIES LIKE The Stuff: More amorphous enmities may be found in The Blob (1988), The Raft (segment from Creepshow 2; 1987) and Street Trash (1987). The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Live (1988) and The Thing (1982, 2011) all provide stories in which trust and conspiracy are tested during surreptitious alien takeovers.
SIDEBAR: The DVD includes commentary from writer/director Larry Cohen. It's pretty great.
on January 17, 2015
Larry cohen's film about an Alien lifeform buried in the Ground in the form of Yogurt/Ice cream
that possesses and consumes Humans that love to eat it
if your a big fan of this film
scrap the old Anchor bay release and the 2011 Midnight madness dvd which has no extras anyway
the version to get is this new blu-ray/DVD release by U.K. Distributor Arrow films
Arrow films have given this classic thriller horror from the 80's
a new High Definition transfer in 1:85:1 widescreen which does look sharper & clearer than the old dvd releases
about the new special features
the old Anchor bay release had only one extra
which was a feature length Audio commentary by Director Larry cohen
well there is no commentary track on this U.K. blu-ray version
but however Arrow films have produced a new retrospective 50mins Documentary on the making of the film
CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF THE STUFF
new interviews with Writer & Director Larry cohen, Producer Paul kurta, mechanical effects creator Steve neil
and Actress Andrea Marcovicci and Critic Kim newman
for some reason Actors Michael moriarty, Paul sorvino, Danny Aiello and Child Actor Scott bloom,
were not interviewed, maybe they were not available or Declined.
Theatrical trailer is here aswell
Collectors booklet is also included
this standard blu-ray case contains Blu-ray & DVD Disc, region B locked, region 2 locked
both Discs have exact same content nothing is Different, but you will need an all regions player for sure
you can easily buy a copy from amazon uk and get it shipped to the U.S.
time to upgrade and get this new blu-ray version
5 stars i gave it
on June 24, 2014
This is a petty decent movie ,it does lack any one big "you gotta see this " scene found in other 80s horror films.The slow moving marshmallow creature is bland and when it comes out of people it is interesting but not great.The acting is fine and some bigger stars appear here and there.What is interesting is 30 years after this was made ,how close it is to predicting Americans sugar diet that has turned us into zombies.In the movie "the stuff " is compared to Coke in a scene ,found in a Pepsi cooler in another and linked to the candy "woopers" in a grocery store.It is refered to as a desert that is low fat (during the 80s snackwells replaced fat with sugar in cookies and called it healthy ),and when the main character visits a former FDA worker he says "the stuff should be banned like alcohol prohibition "alcohol is sugar.When the family who become stuff zombies chase a vehicle ,the driver notes they have alot of energy.
In another odd bit of prophecy the Garret Morris character "Chocolate Chip Charlie " is a blatant parody of Famous Amos .In the movie Charlie has had his company stolen by his stockholders ,a few years later in real life Amos had to file bankruptcy and even lost the right to use his name.
So next time you are out in public and you see people lining up at Starbucks or Auntie Ann's for some empty calories that have turned them into fat zombies ,remember The Stuff!
on December 30, 2013
A classic style Horror Movie that is very similar in form to the 1950's style of Horror movie, but with updated special effects. The movie centers around a white substance that is discovered buried in the earth, one of the men tastes the substance and discovers that it is sweet. The man then forms a company over time, bringing the product to market, and his new product called the Stuff is met with a frenzy from the public, the people just can't get enough of the Stuff. So rival corporations are trying to get the secret to this product; so they hire "Michael Moriarty" a corporate saboteur, or corporate spy to discover the secret and bring the information back to them so that these other companies can compete with the Stuff. Anyway the story is very well thought out, no illogical pinned on story lines about politics, such and such rights, the people that wrote this aren't preaching, their doing what all good story tellers are supposed to do, and that is to stick with the story, so we can follow the challenges and escapades of the characters. This is a fun movie it is entertaining and it is safe for kids 13 years old and up. Oh yeah the Stuff is ALIVE!
on August 17, 2016
Low-budget and sometimes embarrassingly lame in the special-effects department, The Stuff is still horror-comedy done right, with the characters largely playing the story straight-faced, and oblivious to the goofiness of many of the situations.
There is nothing great about anything in the movie, and a lot of groan-worthy scenes, but even though it leaves a lot unanswered, it's a fun enough ride to keep your attention.
on May 31, 2016
Not a great film, by any stretch of the imagination, but an interesting misfire. Watching it, I felt like it was a film Ed Wood would have made if he had ever tried his hand at satire.
The blu ray edition is great however. Love that Arrow is putting such love and attention into so many obscure, quirky horror and sci-fi films. This film geek loves it and will definitely buy more of their freaky film releases!
“The Stuff” is the new dessert sensation sweeping America. It’s tasty, low in calories, and doesn’t stain. The downside: it has a life of its own. Young Jason (Scott Bloom) seems to be the only person who doesn’t love The Stuff. In fact, he won’t go anywhere near it after seeing the pudding crawling around the refrigerator one night. Everyone who eats The Stuff starts acting weird. Teaming up with industrial saboteur David “Mo” Rutherford (Michael Moriarty), Jason is determined to put a stop to The Stuff and the devious organization behind it, or they face a gooey demise.
Combining elements of “The Blob” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Stuff” attempts to satirically comment on Americans’ tendency to become infatuated with anything new and trendy. Once the plot is set in motion, however, the film never lives up to its potential. With some routine chase sequences and a bunch of wisecracks uttered as the real purpose of The Stuff is revealed, the movie teeters on the fence between comedy and horror, never settling on a consistent tone. Even as horror/comedy, “The Stuff” falls short.
Director Larry Cohen (“It’s Alive,” “Original Gangstas”) uses the premise as a jumping off point for shots at commercials, marketing, industrial espionage, and nutrition. One of the humorous — though pessimistic — messages of the movie is that since we don’t seem to care enough about food additives that could contribute to illness and even death, it’s faster simply to ingest a food that doesn’t prolong the agony.
Though the premise is far-fetched and the script is uneven, the movie’s characters are well defined, three-dimensional folks who find themselves in situations that aren’t so hard to believe. An above-average cast —Andrea Marcovicci, Paul Sorvino, Danny Aiello, Patrick O’Neal, Alexander Scourby, and Russell Nype — allow us to suspend disbelief and lose ourselves in the bizarre fantasy.
Bonus extras on the R-rated Blu-ray release include an introduction and trailer commentary by director Darren Bousman (“Saw II,” “Saw III”); making-of documentary featuring director Larry Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, actress Andrea Marcovicci, and mechanical make-up effects artist Steve Neill; reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work; original trailer; and collector’s booklet with a new essay on the film and original stills and promotional materials.