Thursday, February 23, 2012

#556. The Stuff (1985)

Directed By: Larry Cohen

Starring: Michael Moriarity, Andrea Marcovicco, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino

Tag line: "Are You Eating It...Or Is It Eating You?"

Trivia:  Arsenio Hall was at on point considered for a role in this film

OK, just for a moment, let’s play a little game called “What would you do?” 

Here’s the situation: 

You’re an employee at a refinery, and you’re working late one night, checking out the grounds, when you happen upon some white goo bubbling up out of the snow. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. What would you do? Dig it up? Call someone else to come take a look at it? Try to determine if there are any pipes in the area that might be leaking? There are easily a dozen or so different courses of action you could take, but I’m guessing one thing you wouldn’t do is bend down, scoop some of the goop up, and pop it into your mouth, which is exactly what Harry, the employee in question, does in the opening moments of The Stuff

That tastes real good”, he says, and maybe it does. But dude…come on! 

From the looks of it, old Harry isn't the only one who likes this tasty substance. Packaged in small containers and marketed as the “Stuff”, it becomes an overnight sensation, and the dessert of choice for thousands of American families. Of course, this doesn't sit well with the country's ice cream manufacturers, who hire David Rutherford (Michael Moriarty), an ex-FBI agent specializing in industrial espionage, to check into this mysterious new sweet. Right off the bat, his investigation raises a few red flags. For one, the Stuff was approved by the FDA, yet almost every official who passed it is now missing. What's more, a young boy named Jason (Scott Bloom) was taken into custody for trashing a small-town supermarket, claiming he saw the Stuff “moving by itself” in his refrigerator. Rutherford eventually joins forces with Jason, as well as Nicole Kendall (Andrea Marcovicci), a campaign executive who now regrets producing the commercials that made the Stuff so popular, and together they go under cover to infiltrate the factory turning out the gooey treat, hoping to finally get to the bottom of this potentially dangerous snack. 

While we never do learn with any certainty what the Stuff actually is, director Cohen slowly strips away the mystery as Rutherford's investigation intensifies. He pays a visit to an FDA employee named Vickers (Danny Aiello), who's more evasive than helpful. When asked about the approval process, Vickers replies “You got to understand, this is a dessert, not a prescription medicine. Not any different from yogurt or ice cream”. Kind of a chilling statement coming from an FDA official, wouldn't you say? But the real break in the case happens when Rutherford checks out a small town, which has supposedly been inundated with the Stuff. Here, he meets Chocolate Chip Charlie (Garrett Morris), a famous cookie magnate who lost his company around the same time the Stuff started flying off shelves. While strolling down a dark street in this seemingly deserted little town, the two are attacked by a group of crazed locals, and when Rutherford slugs one across the jaw, the man's entire face implodes! At that moment, he realizes the Stuff contains...well, some pretty nasty stuff! 

The film has something to say about the power of advertising, and how a little bit of positive buzz can turn even the strangest item into a moneymaker. But never mind all that, because The Stuff is also about white goo trying to take over the world, which is ultimately what makes it such a blast to watch.


Alex Jowski said...

This is certainly one of Larry Cohen's better films. The 2nd most enjoyable he's directed at least (still can't top Q: The Winged Serpent). Great review.

DVD Infatuation said...

Alex: Thanks for the comment!

I actually have yet to see Q, but now, you've got me interested! And if it's more fun than this movie, I'll have to check it out soon

Thanks again, and have a good day

emre said...

I think mine is broken it doesn't try to take over the world :(

DVD Infatuation said...

emrecnl: That's too bad. I'm guessing the Stuff could be quite useful in certain situations :)

Thanks for the comment, and for stopping by!

Unknown said...

Not gonna lie. This movie came out when I was a kid, and the trailer scared the daylights out of me. I had "The Stuff" nightmares for weeks. Hey, I was in elementary school at the time!

DVD Infatuation said...

Wayne: I can see why...marshmallow fluff that could make your head explode? That would've given me nightmares as well!

Thanks for the comment

Unknown said...


Fellow reviewer here. Discovered your site a while back and have to say I really enjoy it. The premise of the site is really good, and thought I've read a lot before, this is my first comment.

I think that "The Stuff" is the epitome of what a horror movie in the eighties is. Great, fun, practical effects, coupled with nice deadpan performances and people doing questionable things (such as the mine worker you talk about in the beginning of your post.

All the best,

David of

DVD Infatuation said...

David: Thanks so much for the comment, and the kind words! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.

And I agree with you 100% about THE STUFF. In these days of CGI, I especially miss the practical effects (which, in many cases, look better)

Also, I visited your blog as well. Very cool! Everyone should check out

Thanks again, sir.