Dave Harlequin’s RETRO-REVIEWS: issue #8 – ‘THE STUFF’ (1985)

Before we begin, please let me be completely honest here… I absolutely LOVE bad 80s horror movies. There is just a certain something about these classic gems (if you can even call them that) of retro-cinema that just have a special place in my heart.

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Maybe it’s that familiar shot-on-video look that reminds me of my childhood; maybe it’s the overabundance of cheese-ball campiness that tickles my (admittedly offbeat) funny bone; or maybe it’s the fact that in these movies, anything can kill you… and I do mean ANYTHING. It’s with that in mind we take a look back at 1985’s The Stuff – the only movie (to my knowledge) to ever feature killer ice cream… or yogurt… or whatever it is.

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!

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The plot is simple enough, when a miner discovers a strange cream-like substance oozing up out of the earth; he decides to give it a taste (who wouldn’t, right?) and finds it to be delicious. After pitching the newly found substance to a major marketing company, who brands it “The Stuff,” suddenly this strangely tasty goo is flying off the shelves of grocery stores everywhere. Before you know it, “The Stuff” has become a worldwide phenomenon, and is quickly replacing ice cream as the new favorite treat of suburban households, and pretty much everyone else. But when a young boy named Jason just so happens to see “The Stuff” moving on its own in his family fridge one night, he starts to suspect that this isn’t just some ordinary snack food. When he tries to warn his family, not only do they not believe him, but also seem to start acting more and more bizarre the longer they eat “The Stuff” … in fact, it seems everyone is. Almost like they’re possessed or something… but that can’t be possible, can it? After all, it’s just ice cream, right?

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Meanwhile, a rival candy company who has also noticed the strange behavior of the American consumers has hired a private investigator, a former FBI agent by the name of David “Mo” Rutherford, to look into the strange phenomenon and get the real scoop, if you will. During Mo’s investigation, he finds that almost everything about “The Stuff” is shrouded in mystery, and anyone who knows anything about the product seems to be awfully paranoid about it. When the trail leads him to a sleepy town in the middle-of-nowhere, he, along with a fellow investigator he meets there, are attacked by a group of crazed townsfolk whose bodies have been taken over by the apparently parasitic substance with a mind of its own. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. As the investigation continues, it seems everyone is in on the secret, and most of them are possessed themselves, including the FDA representative he interrogates, and the FDA rep’s dog, who decides to eat Mr. FDA once they run out of their “Stuff” supply.

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Meanwhile, young Jason’s family continues their transformation into insane, evil “Stuffies” and just as they’re about to force-feed the boy into the cult, Agent Mo arrives in town to rescue him. Now it’s up to Mo, Jason, and the handful of survivors they encounter along the way to stop the deadly dessert that’s body-snatched pretty much everyone in the world. Will they be able to defeat the creamy goo-filled ghouls?  Is there anything that can even hurt this tasty terror? Will they be just another group of victims of the snack sensation that’s eating the nation? Will I ever run out of cheesy puns in this article? At least one of these answers is no!

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The Bottom Line:
As you can probably tell, The Stuff pretty much is what it is… a campy, silly, and oh-so-totally 80’s b-flick about killer ice cream that possesses people. It never once takes itself too seriously, and makes for a hilarious and highly entertaining sci-fi/horror-comedy. Yes it’s ridiculous, yes it has a Swiss-cheese plot, and yes, it’s a perfect candidate for MST3K (which – with it coming back and all – I can hope, right?)… but that’s exactly why it’s so great! Sure, there’s probably a bit of the ever-annoying “political commentary” on American consumerism they tried to tuck there somewhere, but it’s not even worth mentioning. Best way I can describe The Stuff – it’s Attack of the Killer Tomatoes meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. So in conclusion, if you go into this expecting a cinematic masterpiece, not only will you be disappointed, but also there’s a good chance you’re a mindless goo-zombie yourself. But if you go into this expecting nothing more than a fun little “so-bad-it’s-good” cult-classic, you might just find that it’s one of the best ones out there!

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-Dave Harlequin
Editor: Nerd Nation Magazine
@DaveHarlequin

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