Directed by: Larry Cohen
Starring: Michael Moriaty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garret Morris, Paul Sorvino
I guess it’s at least possible that a bored security guard just might have a taste of something strange bubbling out of the ground of a mine. If that’s possible then maybe it’s not that surprising that the eponymous Stuff is sweet and tasty. Of course it’s only a matter of months before the Stuff has been packaged, marketed and distributed and about to go national. People love it. It’s low calorie, all natural, nutritious, gives you loads of energy and a sense of well-being. Sound too good to be true? Well of course it is.
The story starts out with two arcs. One following Jason, the debut performance of Scott Bloom, a young boy whose family has fell under the influence of the Stuff. Only Jason’s seen the Stuff moving and is wary. The other arc follows Mo Rutherford, played by Michael Moriarty, an industrial saboteur hired by the Ice cream industry to “keep the world safe for ice cream”. Jason’s story is actually creepy. Being the only member of a family that has not succumbed to the allure of the Stuff. Watching his mother, father and older brother fall under its spell and become insistent that he fall under its spell as well. Mo’s arc though is pure fun. Mo is an ultra-confident ex-FBI agent who now helps his clients compete in an extra legal manor. The ice cream industry is being hammered by The Stuff so they hire Mo to give them an edge.
The movie could be considered a criticism of consumerism but luckily The Stuff isn’t preachy and any message that’s in there you have to look for it. Mostly The Stuff is just fun. It’s a great delight watching Moriarty chew his way through his scenes. Beside Moriarty there are quite a few heavy hitters in the cast. Paul Sorvino plays a commie obsessed militia Colonel, Danny Aiello a corrupt FDA honcho, Garret Morris is Chocolate Chip Charley a former chocolate chip cookie magnate, there is even a cameo with Abe Vigoda playing opposite Clara Peller, the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” lady. The Stuff never drags, it plows through its 87 minutes like a freight train. Sometimes to its own detriment. You get the impression a few times that there is a scene missing here or there, but it’s worth the momentum. It’s not like you expect a rock solid story line from a movie about a sentient dessert. The effects are a mixed bag. Sometimes they look good, sometimes they don’t. There are a few green screen shots that are comically bad, but some shots of tons of Stuff flowing up a wall or down a hallway look great.
Intriguingly the movie doesn’t try to answer all the questions. All we know about The Stuff is that it comes from under the ground. What is it exactly? Does it have an agenda? Is it influencing people or are they just addicts feeding their addiction. We’ll never know and I think that’s rather cool. I’m not really sure what I was expecting from The Stuff but I enjoyed the hell out of it.
The film looks great. the transfer appears to have been made from a pristine print. I never noticed any analog artifacts. Some of the night scenes might be a little grainy but it’s never distracting. Some of the effects shots are a bit iffy, but I imagine that’s entirely attributable to the source material.
The audio is presented in mono and there are English subtitles available. The dialog is always clear and intelligible and the foley work is more than competent. The score is epic and bombastic and really adds something to the movie.
The Extra Features:
There are not a lot of extra features but the quality of what’s included makes up for it. There is a hour long featurette Can’t Get Enough of The Stuff that has interviews with Larry Cohen the writer, director and producer of the film. There are interviews with the effects crew and other producers as well a critic or two. There are insights into the production of The Stuff as well as what it was like working with Larry Cohen in the early and mid-eighties. There is a two minute presentation from Darren Bousman of Trailers from Hell about the trailer and the movie. And of course there is the original trailer of for the movie. The menus are nice and simple with shots from the film that really get you hyped up to press play.