The Stuff Review
A cheap looking splatter flick given more credence due to a satirical edge running through out
It’s white, delicious, has no calories, moreish and you can’t get enough. It also controls you and consumes you from the inside. It’s The Stuff.
Larry Cohen’s darkly comical and scathing satirical swipe at corporate America hit the screens smack in the middle of the eighties - a decade dedicated to excess, expansion, corporate greed and the standing philosophy of more is better. However, its biting satire is well hidden within a cheap, shoddy looking horror flick. But it is there. The Stuff tells of a white gloopy liquid that seeps out of the ground and its marketing as a calorie free dessert that throws the yoghurt and ice cream manufacturers into turmoil when the public abandon their products for this new phenomenon. In the subsequent fight back, the industrial giants employ espionage and deceit to discover how this product is manufactured and marketed, but the retired FBI agent on the trail discovers something far more sinister – the Stuff is a living organism that is feeding off its hosts and has its own desires!
The film is little more than a cheap looking splatter flick, but what gives is more credence is a satirical edge that runs through out. Unfortunately, its cheap nature can’t be hidden, from some poor effects, to bad acting, choppy editing and an overall feeling that the film screams budget exploitation, just without the boobs and gore to back it up. However, Cohen directs with a furious pace, keeps up the tension, comedy and splatter, all the while taking a swipe at the country that was, in essence, doing exactly the same thing with banking. There also flashes of brilliance, the advertising, for example, is spot on for the time; the jingles employed are genuinely catchy (“Enough is never enough”) and it could be argued that having the adverts running throughout the film act as subliminal messages for you to enjoy the film more and to further the story points; see Verhoeven use a similar ploy in both Robocop and Starship Troopers years later.
The horror aspects draws on some very familiar territory, most noticeably Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and there are some nice creepy moments with a child being very scared of his own family when they become addicted. At the time there were some nice twists and turns, but nowadays these are all rather predictable. Swipes at survivalists and military coups are not lost either. But despite all this the whole thing is still a cheap looking horror, even if it is a terrific product of its time; so on that merit comes recommended.
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