The Stuff (1985) Review

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“Enough is never enough.” Not only is that the tagline for this film but it is the quintessential motto of the entire decade of the 80s.

The Stuff  begins with an older man discovering a thick white substance bubbling up from the ground. And like any normal trusting human being, he gets a dab of it on his finger AND STICKS IT IN HIS MOUTH. You ever wonder about the type of person who is the first to eat something unknown? What goes through his mind as he munches on a foreign substance? Does he worry about being poisoned, disfigured, injured, or even dying? Apparently not THIS guy. He thinks this stuff is so delicious, he makes his buddy eat some too, and they decide they can sell it and make loads of cash!

The next thing we know, The Stuff has become a mass marketable consumable, with an ad campaign that puts the Comcast cable company’s “Opulence” commercial to shame. Ladies in fur coats, sashaying along a model’s runway as they lick luscious Stuff from dainty spoons show us just how luxurious this product is. Don’t you want to be just like them?

Now the ice cream money makers, on their yacht sipping champagne and high-end booze, are all kibbitzing about what to do regarding this new competition. They hire Mo Rutherford, a former FBI agent, to infiltrate The Stuff’s company and get something they can exploit or steal or at least copy.

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What our man discovers is that The Stuff isn’t just a creamy sweet treat. It’s some kind of sentient substance that takes over a person’s body, eating them up from the inside out. Before it completely destroys the vessels, though, it can make them…do things. Fortunately for Mo, he’s not the only one who hasn’t been corrupted by the delectable snack. So with a few allies in tow, he manages to stop The Stuff and get a warning out to the public.

Or does he?
Writer and director, Larry Cohen, has brought us fun fare before (It’s Alive) and he does it again with The Stuff. A laundry list of well-known actors fill out the ensemble from Michael Moriarty (Mo) and Garret Morris (Chocolate Chip Charlie) to Paul Sorvino as the crazed militant egomaniacal General Spears. Most of the characters are interesting but it’s Mo who is the most likable. Maybe it’s the southern drawl or just his willingness to stand up to the man while preserving his principles.

There are some epic kills in this movie. Once a person’s body has been used up by The Stuff, they’re basically shells. So when they get run over by trucks, they look like dolls shattered against the pavement with just a bit of red pulp to make things colorful. They sometimes even spray white goop instead of blood when shot. Maybe that won’t satisfy the gore hounds out there but it sure makes things a bit more interesting.

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I do love the story. It’s so common for alien invaders or biological parasites to beam down and invade our bodies despite how much we fight. But to be taken over through our food and we don’t know the danger until it’s too late? *shudder* We assume a certain amount of safety with what we put into our bodies and to watch the human race consume its way into oblivion is rather horrifying.

While much of the acting is good, most of it is true to campy B-horror: lacking. Mr Cohen’s perch on his soapbox about the decade of excess felt a little pretentious, or at least like a hot poker into the ribs of the rich because they should be hated since they aren’t like the rest of us ‘normal’ people. The editing was terrible, too. The jumps between some scenes felt choppy and unprofessional.

Despite the rough patches and the feeling of being talked down to from time to time, the movie was a lot of fun. I was entertained and enjoyed (almost) all 93 minutes of it.

3.5 Hatchets (out of 5)

11 thoughts on “The Stuff (1985) Review

  1. Once again you’ve hit upon one of my guilty pleasures. I remember seeing this one in a drive-in many years ago and a few of the scenes stuck in my mind. The Stuff in the fridge, moving around on its own in the middle of the night… simple, but a genuine shiver.

    I have since found it on DVD, and I trot it out every once in a while. I think I’ll watch it again today, in fact. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. One of the final scenes, at the radio station when we find out someone we thought was a good guy turns out to be bad, has never left my psyche. Whenever I think of this film, THAT’S the scene that always pops into my head. So great!

    1. The main characters take a tour of the manufacturing plant but there’s a scene later on that shows the company just siphoning The Stuff from a never ending supply bubbling up from the ground.

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