01 August 2014

The Stuff (1985)
93 min.
Directed by Larry Cohen.
With Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom, Danny Aiello, and Patrick O’Neal.
Jose Cruz

Lame and unnecessarily goofy mid-80s horror.

After a strange substance is discovered in the Arctic, it takes the world by storm as it is marketed as the next big frozen dessert. Dubbed “The Stuff,” it seems like its consumers cannot get enough of the white goo, as evidenced in the tidal wave of commercialism that precedes it.

Former FBI agent David “Mo” Rutherford (Moriarty) is brought in to investigate the delicacy. He enlists the aid of a disenfranchised cookie baron (Morris), a commercial director (Marcovicci), and a young boy (Bloom) who suspects that the Stuff is taking over his family.

And of course they’re right, because the Stuff is a sentient amoeba that can move and devour of its own accord. It also possesses its consumers and turns them into subservient zombies. How much longer will it be before the Stuff controls us all?

Ineptly directed by Cohen, this low-budget affair recalls the likes of Invaders from Mars with its kid-heroes and diabolical conspiracies, but it retains all of that movie’s cutesiness and zero of its tension. It has a perfectly hollow sense of comedy that it attempts to inject in the story at a much too frequent rate.

And when we’re introduced to an African-American character named “Chocolate Chip” Charlie (who for some reason is also adept at martial arts), you realize how low the sensibilities of The Stuff really are.

The only thing of note here are the goopy creature effects, but the effective scenes (a villain’s suspended demise on a ceiling) are interspersed with some rather unconvincing superimposition work. Cohen somehow manages to make some scenes feel strangely abrupt while others tend to drag on indefinitely. It leaves the hour-and-half film feeling like an aimless mess.

The acting is either hokey or sleepy, and Cohen’s attempts at pointed social commentary on our consumptive natures and how we’re controlled by the products we buy is woefully thin and amateurish. If you’d like a more sophisticated take on those themes, stick with Carpenter’s They Live.

Only for completists.

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