The Stuff (1985) — When it’s moving, don’t eat it

“Are you eating it or is it eating you?”

Justin’s rating: Double-scoop, please

Justin’s review: I don’t know what you or anyone else was expecting when they arrived to watch Larry Cohen’s 1985 satirical horror film The Stuff, but I guarantee that it puzzled just about everyone. I guess I was thinking that it’d be like The Blob — a semi-scary B-movie about an out-of-control slime mold — but instead we got something more akin to Halloween III: The Season of the Witch. At least both have to do with a guy who investigates commercial product that outright kills people, although one is more delicious than the other (the product, not the investigator).

On top of an amazing film name, The Stuff features an amazing protagonist. This is David “Mo” Rutherford (Michael Moriarty), a former FBI agent who decided to turn to industrial sabotage instead of his obvious calling, which is world terrorism on a James Bond scale. Mo is very weird and intense, occasionally putting on a deceptively dopey facade to get the best of people. And he’s going to need all of the tricks in the world for his next assignment, because he’s got to figure out how The Stuff was made.

You see, The Stuff is an incredibly addictive dessert that’s sweeping the globe — even though nobody knows much about the company who makes it or what actually goes into this sweet treat. One little boy named Jason (Scott Bloom) is convinced he even saw The Stuff move one night. But, of course, nobody believes him. Nobody… but Mo.

Joining this team of true believers is advertising exec Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci), former dessert CEO Chocolate Chip Charlie” (Garrett Morris), and militia leader Col. Spears (Paul Sorvino). All five may be too little, too late to fight the true threat of The Stuff. Because, you see, The Stuff is some sort of alien parasite that hollows out people and turns them into mind-controlled lackeys — “Stuffies,” we’re told — for its sinister purposes.

It’s not a scary movie, for sure, but there is a Body Snatchers kind of ambient creepiness as the world starts to empty out of normal people and fridges and freezers fill up with pastel pints. There’s also a bit of body horror as the victims’ mouths open way too wide to make room for The Stuff to exodus when its work is done.

Cohen reportedly wanted to make this as an odd way of shining a spotlight on how we as a culture often shovel weird stuff into our bodies without ever thinking of what we’re eating. Considering the deceptive and sometimes harmful products that profit-seeking companies put on store shelves, it’s not a bad topic to examine. Periodically through the movie, we see how the corporations and marketing firms help to promote it through commercials and billboards.

And special props to The Stuff’s marketing department, because this is genius:

In turns funny and freaky, The Stuff shines with its unusual premise and absolutely magnetic cast. A true treat, start to finish.

Didja notice?

  • These two dofuses are weirdly OK with eating stuff that’s bubbling out of the ground near an industrial worksite
  • That commercial woman has the creepiest voice
  • “I do suppose we have to save the world of ice cream.”
  • Lotta sweaty palms
  • This guy plants bugs on people and sucker-punches an FBI agent. I like him.
  • Looks like the family has a Commodore 64 on the TV
  • The great Stuff grocery store massacre
  • It’s Mira Sorvino in her film debut as a factory worker!
  • Zombie dog
  • The cheerful way that Charlie and Mo plan out a kidnapping cracked me up
  • “Only thing Chocolate Chip Charlie knows better than fighting is running!” “Pick a direction!”
  • I like that Mo takes the bribe even though he’s not going to give in to the company
  • The Stuff doesn’t like to be flushed
  • Mmm shaving cream. Good deception, Jason. Lasts for like two seconds.
  • “Everyone has to eat shaving cream once in a while.”
  • The “Where’s the Beef?” lady dong a similar commercial for The Stuff
  • The hotel room was a recycled set (the upside-down room) from Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Everyone has ankle bombs, don’t they?
  • About time this movie had a crazy militia

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