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The Stuff (1985) October 27th, 2020

The Stuff mixes the aliens-replacing-people elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the aliens utilizing consumerism to take control of earth elements of They Live but funnier than both. The Stuff‘s premise is simple, a parasitic creature of either alien or prehistoric origin is discovered on earth. Once ingested The Stuff (both the film’s title and the name of the product/monster in the film) takes over your body. It’s not exactly clear if the creature replaces the host’s body or simply controls their actions but what is clear is you’re a slave as soon as you take your first taste.

The opening scene in The Stuff is one of my all-time favorites because it wastes no time getting to the stupidity. Fade up from black onto a gray haired man at a snow covered gravel mill approaching the camera only to crouch, stick his fingers into a white yogurt like substance bubbling up form the ground and put that substance in his mouth rejoicing, “That tastes real good! Tasty! Sweet!” Who would do that? If you don’t see the problem with what that man did then you’re very close to ending civilization according to The Stuff. I’ve done my job if you take nothing more from this blog than “Don’t put strange ground-goo in your mouth”.

Then the movie starts to get worse. An abrupt cut to a child restlessly scratching his arms as the mosquitoes that came in through his open bedroom window make a feast of his blood (metaphor?). The kid grumbles to the window before closing it and heading downstairs. He’s hungry and wants a snack. When he opens the refrigerator he see’s an open container of The Stuff which we’re left to assume has quickly jumped from it’s gross ground-muck stage to being in stock in stores and kitchen refrigerators across the country. But something is wrong with the container in his refrigerator, it’s on its side, open and The Stuff is moving around on its own. He slams the door shut and suddenly his father’s by his side scolding the child for being loud this late at night.

The boy’s name is Jason and he’s one of the three main characters we follow throughout the film. Jason takes up the quest to destroy The Stuff because he doesn’t trust that it’s good for you. What’s it even made of? No-one knows. “Mo” Rutherford (played by Law and Order alum Michael Moriarty) is an industrial spy/saboteur hired by a leading ice cream company to find out why The Stuff is taking so much of their market share and put a stop to it. Along the way he encounters Nicole the advertising executive responsible for The Stuff’s successful marketing campaign. The three of them eventually join together on an exciting adventure to take down The Stuff.

The Stuff is not a movie I enjoyed. Something about the poor editing, bad screenwriting, underperforming actors and over compensating special effects combined with an earnest message make The Stuff virtually unwatchable. Seriously, I can’t stay awake when it’s on. I’ve tried watching it three times and I’ve fallen asleep each time. I’m like a werewolf to this movie’s full moon, it didn’t take long this morning when I tried to rewatch it before I sprang to consciousness as the blu-ray main menu music began cycling and I realized it had happened again.

It’s a shame because I appreciate and agree with The Stuff‘s message that we should all be more careful when it comes to what we put into our bodies. The Stuff makes great use of metaphor. The Stuff’s goopy white design clearly calls to mind the visual aesthetic and dubious health benefits of the 80’s Froyo craze and The Stuff’s consumers express a devotion less like an average brand loyalty and more like how addicts rationalize smoking cigarettes.

The Stuff has positive qualities someone might enjoy if they’re not driving away by all the bad filmmaking like a chance to see performances by Garrett Morris and Paul Sorvino! There’s a handful of fun special effects heavy scenes reminiscent of John Carpenter’s They Live and The Thing. The Stuff really is great if that’s the kind of movie you’re looking for.

At its heart The Stuff is a condemnation of the consumer culture from which its own producers sought to profit. The irony that the only reason I can watch The Stuff on home video is because of its previous commercial success is not lost on me. It’s tragic that the people who criticize consumerism will pay top dollar for anti-consumerism content. The world is a vampire.

PS: I can’t move on without addressing the elephant in my brain. And that’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. I don’t blame you if you’ve never watched it but I cannot recommend it enough regardless of its connection to The Stuff. The Power Rangers’ first feature film sees the teenage heroes battle against the egg-born cosmic entity Ivan Ooze (played by Belloq himself Paul Freeman). Ooze destroys the Rangers’ base and the source of their titular power leaving them unable to prevent him from exacting his evil plan. That plan? To distribute a purple Gak-like toy that removes autonomy and self control from anyone it touches to the children of Angel Grove. Gak, if you don’t remember, is Nickelodeon’s slime like goo-toy from the 90s that drips and oozes all over and smells like a chemical fire. So we have the bad guy whose plan is to use a non-newtonian fluid that takes away the free will of everyone it touches. Sounds an awful lot like The Stuff to me. But don’t tell anyone. I’ve got to believe that if more people thought the Power Rangers used material not wholly original to their show it would do irreparable damage to the Saban Entertainment brand.

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