The Stuff is one of those horrors that I feel like I’ve seen time and time again but never all the way through. Not sure why, considering its satirical poke at consumerism and corporate greed is fun to watch.
It’s a good movie, amusing and clever but it lacks a little something that really makes it outstanding. It lacks horror. Yes, it is rooted in that but mostly played for laughs and cutting away before things can get really horrific.
It seems as though that was a purposeful decision by writer/director Larry Cohen, something the studio did not like either apparently. A bit of confusion between the parties clearly as the cover seems to suggest that it’s going to be truly terrifying.
Still, it did give us this famous image.
The movie begins with some railroad workers discovering a white substance coming out of the ground. As you do, one of them decides to taste it and finds it to be delicious.
Sometime later, it is now on sale in supermarkets and is proving to be a huge hit. Marketed as having no calories while being delicious and filling, it decimates the ice-cream market with its addictive qualities.
The ice-cream industry decides to fight back by hiring David “Mo” Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) to investigate and destroy The Stuff. He is a former FBI agent who now does industrial sabotage, a charming man who will see the job done. He is easily the best thing about this movie.
What he discovers about The Stuff is truly terrifying. It is living organism. A parasite that takes over the brain and turns its victims into zombie-like creatures. Eventually it consumes them from the inside leaving them a literal empty shell.
It’s a cool as hell idea, imagined really well with some clever effects. Kind of like Body Snatchers but with white ice-cream looking goop.
Is it silly? Of coursed it is and you’re more likely to spend your time smiling at the more absurd moments then being scared. That’s the tone of the movie, silly over scary but a strong cast also help sell the sillier moments.
The addictive nature of The Stuff and how it transforms its victims is where tension can be found. A family who have succumbed to it trying to get their son to eat it is a particular highlight and the final scene is a little bit darker than the majority of the movie.
That ties into the ‘greed’ element of the story. Something that isn’t that subtle but still works well. Massive corporations want money, all the money and don’t care who gets hurt along the way. It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff and kind of makes the whole plight of the characters feel pointless as beating these corporations is nigh on impossible. The Stuff is just too popular.
The Stuff’s fame is perhaps unwarranted as it’s hardly a stone-cold classic. It has got a well written story, solid acting and moments that impress. Overall though, it is far too confused about if it is a horror or a comedy. Neither really hits the right spots either.