Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Stuff (1985)

Title: The Stuff (1985)

Director: Larry Cohen

Cast: Michael Moriarty, Paul Sorvino, Patrick ONeal


This is one of those movies I used to watch a lot as a kid. Decades upon decades (I'm old I know) had passed since I last saw it and I had not found a chance to revisit this childhood flick. So I decided to finally give this one the old re-watch. How did it hold up?

Well, the thing about this movie is that it has an interesting premise. The story is about this chemical sludge that comes out of the earth. Its white and looks like Yogurt. One day, this old man finds it, the same way you would find an oil gaizer. Weird thing is the first thing the old man decides to do is taste the white stuff thats coming out of the ground. The old man doesnt stop twice to think if the stuff he is ingesting is toxic or an alien germ or something, no he simply picks it up with his fingers and eats it! As things turn out, the white stuff taste great and it is extremely addictive. Soon after that The Stuff becomes a sensation and is marketed all across the country! It outsells ice cream! People are getting curiously addicted to the new product! And are there any side effects to eating The Stuff? Oh yeah, after you eat a lot of it, you turn into a brainless zombie with The Stuff for blood and brains thats all! Anyhows, this little kid starts noticing how strange his family is behaving. All anybody talks about in the house is about eating The Stuff! One day the kid opens the fridge and The Stuff is alive and moving on its own inside of the fridge! The kid goes on a binge trying to let the world know that The Stuff is evil! Its bad for ya! But whos going to listen to a little kid?

So yeah, there you have it. Thats The Stuff in a nut shell. Problem is that the film is not all that exciting. The movie is very low budget and it shows. But it has big ideas, and it does its best with what its got to put them across. I salute the movie for going further then it had any right to, considering how much money they had to make this film with. Yup folks this movie was made with a meager 1.7 million dollars! So I salute the filmmakers for achieving so much with so little.

Whats to like about this movie anyways? Well, it's got that eerie Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel to it. What I also like to call the Invaders from Mars syndrome. You know the one where everybody starts acting all weird, the townsfolk, your brother, your sister, your parents. This is the kind of film where everybody in town is acting all weird, and your the only normal person! They all want you to be like them, to join them. That's really what I find most interesting about films of this kind. You can associate these themes with the drone like mentality of religion, or any other belief system that wants everybody to think the same. This is the kind film where if you dont agree with the majority, then you die!

But interestingly enough it also has another angle to it. The addiction angle. People develop an addiction for The Stuff. It gets so bad its the only thing people eat! Its the only thing they think about. Their refrigerators only have The Stuff in them! The Supermarkets are filled to the brim with The Stuff! Everyone and their mother are going crazy for The Stuff! The kid opposes them, trying to wake them up from their dream but no one listens! He goes insane in desperation; trying to get people to realize whats going on. In one cool scene, the kid goes into a supermarket and starts throwing The Stuff all over the floor, destroying the displays, and going gung ho with his anti-The Stuff sentiment. So this low budget horror flick touches upon themes of drug addiction, and religious fanatism. It speaks about individuality vs. the hive mentality. And it also comments on consumerism because all through out the movie they have these little commercials for The Stuff, where they try to sell you The Stuff, even though it's obviously not good for you. Kind of what goes on in the world with all the fast food they try and shove down our consciousness and our throats. 

So The Stuff is a little movie with big ideas. Had they a couple more million dollars maybe they could have gone even further with it. As it is, we get some nifty low budget effects in The Stuff. We get to see it move on its own, kind of the same way The Blob does. It grows tentacles, it grabs people! It squirms, it slides. The coolest effects really come when we see the effects that The Stuff has on people. It turns them into mindless drone like zombies! Also, The Stuff has this tendency to come out from the insides of looks pretty freaky. Its as if the people where going to explode when The Stuff comes out of them, it kind of rips their faces apart.

The downside to the movie is really its stupid dialog. Some situations are not very realistic. In one particular scene, the main character leaves a kid alone, not to be heard or seen for a huge chunk of the movie! What the hell happened to the kid? Who knows! Then suddenly, oh, there he is! The military come off in a very unconvincing manner. You can tell they are just actors with fake uniforms and fake guns. It takes you out of the movie immediately, but it also reminds you, you are in B-movie territory and dont you forget it! Also, even though the movie sounds like its a kick ass little horror movie, there are times when the movie just crawls to a stop with its pace. It has really boring moments to it, but then it picks up the pace again whenever The Stuff takes control of people. So be ready for a movie thats has big ideas and very little money to execute them. But gotta hand it to Larry Cohen, he pulls it off one way or another, and its almost always in a entertaining matter.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5


Mr. Fiendish said...

Yeah I have to agree that this is one of Larry Cohen's less interesting films, although I will give it credit for having some really badass special effects and an interesting idea in the 'evils of merchandising'. Plus it made me hungry for some cool whip

btw, how come Cohen used Michael Moriarty in so many of his films? He's a terrible actor

Franco Macabro said...

I think its because once a director starts working with an actor, usually they continue on using them through out their careers. But I agree, he was one of the worst things about the film. I kept asking myself the same question "why this guy?"

Franco Macabro said...

Moriarty has been working with Cohen since Q: The Winged Serpent in 1981.

I Like Horror Movies said...

There are elements I really like in THE STUFF, and many of the FX sequences are surprisingly convincing for what had to have been a tiny scale.

Franco Macabro said...

They used a lot of miniatures and blue screen (it wasnt even green screen yet!) if you pay attention, you can see where the miniatures where used.

Still, I salute these guys for pulling it off with so little, I mean for all intents and purposes, this is a fx heavy film and they did for only 1.7 million, which is nothing in film land.


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