New to Blu: Arrow Video - The Stuff

Andrew reviews Arrow Video's release of the horror comedy cult classic. 

Mmmmmm....Nummy nummy stuff. 
The first time I saw Q: The Winged Serpent director Larry Cohen's 1985 horror comedy The Stuff, I was in college gathered around one of those over-sized rear screen projection televisions with a group of friends.  Much like the characters in the film itself, we were eating this hysterically funny and darkly delicious number up.  The snarky and satirical 1950s inspired drive-in tale of a yogurt-like substance which becomes the new national craze before it is revealed to be a deadly parasitic creature ala The Blob is a movie with its tongue firmly planted in cheek from beginning to end. 

Marketed as a horror movie, The Stuff is actually a dark comedy poking fun at our national penchant for junk food replete with potshots at disingenuous marketing campaigns, junk food moguls and corporate paranoia.  Starring Cohen regular Michael Moriarty in a perfectly deadpan performance as a former FBI agent assigned to investigate the origins of The Stuff by the struggling ice cream industry, the movie is equal parts a Twilight Zone fable and a Troma oriented goof whose hilariously implausible plot twists and deliberately silly looking special effects amount one of the funniest movies that treads a fine line between horror and comedy.  Think the Stay Puft Marshmallow The Blob predating the corporate advertising satire of Paul Verhoeven's Robocop.

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Face hugger!!!!!
This is one of those rare movies whose incredulous scenes will make most viewers (myself included) instinctively reach for the rewind button if we can just stop laughing for one minute.  Take for instance the film's opening sequence in which an industrial railroad worker first spots The Stuff bubbling out of the ground like a volcano.  Before the opening credits even unspool, the worker reaches down to scoop in his hand a small helping of The Stuff before promptly eating it.  Honestly, if you saw The Stuff bubbling white out of the Earth's surface, would you without any prior health testing simply pick it up and consume it?  The joke is that we often take our consumption of fast junk food for granted even when by all accounts eating The Stuff is better left avoided.  Further still, the film even manages to inform the monumentally bad Troll 2 by having a child actor being among the first to see The Stuff for what it really is, much to all adulthood's collective skepticism.  Many of the film's visual effects can be traced to The Blob as far as making the putty Stay Puft yogurt move about, although one particular effect showing The Stuff moving up a wall actually reused the same rotating set piece in A Nightmare on Elm Street when blood explodes from a bed onto the ceiling.  For what is ostensibly a B horror comedy not to be taken seriously, The Stuff also sports quite the star studded cast included but not limited to Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino and the late Alexander Scourby.   Even Danny Aiello manages to sneak a cameo into this thing, making this arguably the silliest eyesore on his resume.

Hey baby! Wanna make out?!
Horror comedy is tricky business, especially when it extends to corporate and consumer cultural satire.  It can either work or in the case of things like Snakes on a Plane or Sharknado feel utterly canned.  George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead remains the sharpest, meanest and most incendiary example of this kind of attack on American consumerism, mixing comedy with what Roger Ebert called 'a savagely Satanic vision of America'.  The Stuff on the other hand is far more goofy and playful in spirit, providing laughs along the way as well as making valid points about how little we think about what we're eating when everyone else seems to like it.  Years later, Morgan Spurlock took the argument to new heights when he documented himself eating McDonald's only for thirty days, showcasing the effects on his physical and mental health over time.  The Stuff more or less has the same goals in mind but it achieves the health conscious message through horror comedy and satire rather than scaring viewers straight.  Yes the film is overtly cheesy and silly throughout but has far more merit than most immediately give it credit for and it contains a hysterically droll performance by Michael Moriarty.  Even if you don't take anything substantive from The Stuff, this is one of the funniest movies you're likely to ever see and will absolutely provide a laugh riot to the uninitiated.  


- Andrew Kotwicki