1985’s The Stuff is right up there with They Live for making a heavy handed metaphor into a whole movie, and doing a damn good job of it, sort of. Confused? You won’t be, after the next episode of… Funky Fred’s Freetime Feline Fur Face Floundering.
More confused? Good. Now I’ve got you right where I want you.
So what do you do when you’re just walking along, and this weird white substance bubbles out of the ground? You taste it, right? And what if that “stuff” tasted really good? Well, immediately, you’d think of selling it to the public. Or, you would if that “Stuff” (please don’t make a drinking game out of this) was somehow changing your brain and making you it’s mindless zombie, obsessed and craving more stuff, more and more because you just can’t get enough of the stuff! (DING!)
The movie itself has some pretty good characters in it. i wouldn’t say they were solid, but it’s fun watching them, for the most part. My personal favorite, of course has to be Garrett Morris, of original SNL cast fame, playing Chocolate Chip Charlie, an obvious homage (obvious to me, maybe not to you cretins) to Wally Amos, of Famous Amos Cookies. But his character just appears and disappears throughout the story, and it just doesn’t really make sense. The film also suffers from some pretty bad special effects, that, while campy and fun, and decent for their time (I guess, I dunno, probably, given their budget) sometimes took me out of the film. But it comes together in the end, thanks to one of the actors whose face you’ll recognize, but probably not know from where (hint: it’s Goodfellas) Mr. Paul Sorvino. He plays an over-the-top military general character with such precision, I really loved every second of his performance.
As for the lead actor, playing “Mo” Rutherford, he’s alright, but i never knew what to think of him. He’s the ‘gun-for-hire’ corporate saboteur who ends up learning The Stuff’s plan and leads the revolution against it. But, he acts like a greedy businessman and his shady past is mentioned a lot, blurring his character so you don’t know whether to like him or not. That’s probably what they were going for, but I still lament at a character’s true core being lost in a muddle of devious tricks and then redeemable actions (if you can really call kidnapping a child redeemable). But it doesn’t really matter, because the real star of this movie is “The Stuff” itself. This movie succeeds in its send-up of consumer culture, one of the favorite subject matters of modern horror. The adverts, the jingles, the fashion models, the fake commercial starring Abe Vigoda and the lady from the “Where’s the beef?” ads! It’s such a smarmy experience, as you watch the bright flashy ads and feel the part inside of you that thinks “I wonder what that tastes like?” Cause that’s when they’ve got you. They don’t expect you to run out and buy their product based on an ad, they want you to walk by it in the aisle and think “hmmm, I should try that out, and see if that ad is right about it really whitening my brain like it promises.”.
No, the stuff won’t whiten your teeth, but it does taste delicious. You should definitely try it. C’mon, try some. Don’t be chicken. See, I’m eating it right now.