The Stuff (1985)

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“A delicious, mysterious goo that oozes from the earth is marketed as the newest dessert sensation, but the tasty treat rots more than teeth when zombie-like snackers who only want to consume more of the strange substance at any cost begin infesting the world.” — IMDb

Are you ready for the most ridiculously awesome movie plot ever? A few railroad workers notice some mysterious white goo bubbling up from the ground. They decide to taste it (what?) and, surprise, it’s delicious! In no time, it’s being scooped into pink and orange containers and marketed as The Stuff, a zero calorie sweet treat that you’re gonna love! And people really do love it — they’re out at 2am to get a cup of it, eating it for every meal, and talking to each other like they’re in some kind of creepy ice cream cult.

David “Mo” Rutherford (played by Michael Moriarty) is a former FBI agent turned industrial saboteur, and he’s hired by the suffering ice cream industry to figure out the secrets behind The Stuff. He soon finds out — with some help from young Jason (played by Scott Bloom, with the creepiest eyes ever) — that the addiction is far more sinister than it seems at first glance.

The story itself is, of course, complete fantasy… but I do appreciate the deeper symbolism here. The director and writer, Larry Cohen, was inspired by “the sheer volume of junk food we consume every day. We continue to eat these foods despite the fact some of them are killing us. That’s when I started thinking that The Stuff could be an imaginary product— in this case an ice cream dessert— that is being consumed by millions and is doing irreparable damage to humanity. Everybody is gobbling down this yummy food, so how can it possibly be wrong for us?” Again, the premise seems unrealistic since people are only consuming ONE specific product, but this is a great metaphor for how our society can be in many ways.

It’s certainly not much as far as actual horror goes. Cohen also mentioned the reception of the movie lacking since it was marketed as a horror movie when really it’s much more of a comedy with some slight horror aspects to it. The production company, New World, wanted a straight up horror film, but Cohen was going for more satire, which he definitely achieved.

But don’t get me wrong — there’s some disturbing scenes of The Stuff attacking people. It’s fun to watch since it seems to change texture and form throughout the movie — which I choose to look at as less of an inconsistency and more of an example of how it’s a sentient being rather than just an edible treat. Sometimes it’s more of a liquid, sometimes it looks like marshmallow fluff, sometimes it’s like a cross between yogurt and ice cream… and strangely enough, every time I see someone eating it, I want to try a bite.

But the scene where they find the man in the back room at the store with his mouth all stretched open? Shudder. The scene where The Stuff is shooting out of the bed in the motel room? Awesome. Watching it emerge from Chocolate Chip Charlie? Creepy.

Speaking of Chocolate Chip Charlie, I’d watch an entire movie — or maybe, more appropriately, a crime-busting TV series — of just him and Mo. They had some pretty hilarious banter in the few scenes they’re together.

It kind of goes out into left field when they get the Colonel (played by Paul Sorvino) involved to help them fight off The Stuff. Admittedly they sort of lost me there with this sudden military bravado — it just seemed completely random. Ultimately, though, the story ends as you might imagine — The Stuff is, in a sense, defeated, but naturally pops up on the black market, because enough really IS never enough.

A funny, weird adventure as long as you’re not dead set on seeing some horror!

Rating: 6/10 | Director: Larry Cohen | Writer: Larry Cohen | Music: Anthony Guefen | Starring: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom

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