The Stuff, 1985
Directed by Larry Cohen
Starring Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom
A delicious mysterious goo that oozes from the Earth is marketed as the newest dessert sensation. But the sugary treat rots more than teeth when zombie-like snackers begin infesting the world.
Certainly a cult favourite among 80s horror fans, The Stuff is unashamedly campy and it never takes itself too seriously. If you read deeper between the lines it could be seen as an allegory for US product consumption, but at the end of the day it’s a movie about a marshmallow alien that takes over people who eat it.
The Stuff is a wonderfully cheesy affair about an alien lifeform that is discovered by a group of miners and through pure idiocy, they find that it tastes amazing. It quickly becomes the hot new product known as The Stuff and starts to take over the minds of Americans who can’t get enough of it. However, a young boy named Jason discovers that The Stuff is a living being and along with a former FBI agent, they try to rid the world of The Stuff and stop those who have already been taken over by it.
There is a certain problem with films of this nature, and that is how people perceive it. Those who have watched The Stuff before will know what they’re getting and enjoy the nostalgia ride, but a newcomer might see this as a “terrible movie”. They’d be incorrect, but if you were to break it down and analyse it with a film snob mind then The Stuff is sort of a disaster. The acting (for the most part) is sub par, the writing isn’t great, the effects don’t hold up and the whole movie looks like it was put together by first year film students.
But that’s part of The Stuff‘s charm.
If you can accept The Stuff for what it is, then you’ll have a good time. It’s funny in a clever self-aware fashion and its light tone means taking it seriously would be a pointless endeavour. All of the practical effects are utterly joyous and, while they may not be the most high tech, they are pretty impressive and inventive for the most part. Lots of camera trickery and footage reversal gives The Stuff some character and the scenes where it attacks its foes are a lot of fun. The film’s most notorious scene (filmed in the same room that Johnny Depp met his demise in A Nightmare on Elm Street) is certainly wacky, but hard to hate.
Which really plays in contrast to the rest of the film. In a bizarre way, The Stuff treads a thin line of being brilliantly put together and being incredibly haphazard. Several scenes have dreadful ADR, there are jump cuts all over the place and the footage reversals often don’t give The Stuff any fluid movement making it look really phony. It’s hard to judge the movie on several of these merits as it is a case of “doing the best with what they had”, but they are hard to ignore.
What does raise the bar however is the central performance from Michael Moriarty. Fans of the original few seasons of Law & Order will appreciate Moriarty’s lackadaisical aura and his laid back performance really plays up to the madness of the movie. He is supported excellently by Garrett Morris in the handful of scenes he’s in and the same can be said for Paul Sorvino. Sadly, Scott Bloom as the young Jason is pretty stiff and there really isn’t much to Andrea Marcovicci, but they both would have struggled to outshine Moriarty. They all however embrace the movie for what it is and the effort from everyone involved means the movie never fails at being entertaining.
The Stuff would make an excellent double bill with Chuck Russell’s 1987 remake of The Blob in that both have a similar theme of alien masses, but are totally different. Whereas The Blob is a more serious horror, The Stuff is a great example of how to have fun with this kind of monster movie and it succeeds in doing so. Is it great? No. But it’s a lot of fun and that’s all that matters sometimes.
Sit back and enjoy it. You might not be able to get enough.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★