Friday, September 17, 2010

Film #41: The Stuff (1985)

My name is RDHP, and I’m a “Stuff” addict.
Shut up, I’m trying to tell my sob story. Okay, hand me those tissues, because this sinner's eyes are gonna get sloppy.

It all started with my first taste of the stuff. Bobby, the workplace bully, was injecting some “stuff” into his firehose one day in the employee bathroom when I walked in.
“Hey, horror nerd, want to try some?” the jerk asked me. Wanting to be one of the “cool” adults, I jammed some under my fingernails. Whoa uncle! It felt like I was a unicorn soaring through Saturn’s candy apple rings!

From that high, came nothing but lows. Before I knew it, I was snorting “stuff” off a five dollar hooker’s who-ha and tap-dancing pantsless for change in a filthy Amtrak bathroom.
I know I’m a “stuffie,” but I just can’t stop! I need a fix man, the goo in my brain is crawling hard! Ahhhhhhhhh! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! FREAKOUT! (Dramatization in video below)

“You can’t get enough, of ‘The Stuff.’” So goes the popular product tag line featured in this week’s stop in film history, 1985's “The Stuff.” Like reality show contestant with a touching backstory, America has wholeheartedly gotten behind a new ice cream alternative dessert called “The Stuff.” This stuff is the sh*t!

Just what is the “The Stuff” made off? Hell if America knows, but it tastes fantastical, so like the bunch of fat asses that we are we shove that shizz into our monkeyholes by the fistful.

Everyone is oddly obsessed with the new food stuff, except for a pint-sized Bob Bummer named Jason and the shady individuals who make up the Big Ice Cream Manufactures syndicate. One night Jason opens his fridge to find the goo-contents of a container of The Stuff crawling around inside.
The white, creamy blob seems to be alive, but Jason can’t convince his family to stop packing in the pints. If it comes in a shiny container and was approved by the FDA, it must be safe to eat, they contend. Sure, trust your government.

As for the Big Ice Cream syndicate executives, they are pissed that The Stuff is becoming the marketplace’s predominant dessert and melting ice cream’s sales. Various tests can’t figure out just what The Stuff is made off, so Big Ice Cream decides to hire disgraced but wily former FBI saboteur/spy David “Mo” Rutherford to help bring The Stuff down.

Soon Mo and Jason come to the same conclusion – not only is The Stuff addictive, it turns those who eat it into zombified aliens!
Ten-year-old Jason goes on a hilarious grocery store rampage and tries to destroy every bit of Stuff he can find. Meanwhile, Mo befriends the beautiful PR genius, Nicole, who helped make The Stuff a household name, and turns her on to the nefarious nature of the tasty product.

Mo rescues Jason from his Stuff-filled homicidal parents, and with that the perfect corporate take-down team is assembled. With a trip down to Stuff HQ, the fearsome threesome scheme to expose The Stuff for what it is – a delicious white and creamy alien that will control your mind and body! You know, like a McFlurry.

The battle for America’s minds and stomachs is on in the oh-so-creamy 1985 flick, “The Stuff.”

RDHP Ratings and Review

C-Rating: 2.4
Chris Dimick i-screams:
“You are what you eat. If the old adage is true, I really don’t know myself that well.
Living in a concrete-encased city, there isn’t much opportunity to grow my own food crops. So like 99.9 percent of this country, everything I eat gets handled and/or processed by strangers and strange companies.

What the hell are we really eating when we open that container of lunch meat, or crack that container of eggs. The answer: hell if we know! We hope these food processors are clean, but I like to live by another adage: “Put hope in one hand and a stack of excrement in the other, and which one do you have more of?”

Recent stories of eggs tainted by processing plants filled with stacks of bird-sh*t, and the various times sliced meat has been recalled due to meningitis contamination isn’t reassuring. It is enough for one to wonder which is safer – putting a potato or a pistol in your mouth.

The Stuff satirizes this modern lack of connectivity with our food, and does so in a very entertaining way. Like some grease soaked meals I’ve had after a night of too many whiskeys, this film was fatty, cheese-covered, nutrient-free, and fun as hell to partake. ‘The Stuff’ tasted home cooked, and though the plot was a little under baked, you could tell it was made with love.

As a fan of The Stuff writer/director Larry Cohen, I’ve learned to expect from his movies a mindless ride, crazed plot, and satirical jabs at society. This flick delivered these attributes by the bushel-full. Heads exploded. Stuff oozed out of yokels' mouths. The gore hit a solid note. It was like a comedy/horror cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Blob… only nowhere near the quality contained in those two classics.

Still, a special treat also came in the form of tragically under-rated actor Michael Moriarty, who played David “Mo” Rutherford. His rhythmic verbal jabs, loose body language, and dry wit were in full effect in this flick as a fast talking con man with a love of money and hatred of dessert.

And through all the plot holes and weird story lines, at least The Stuff had something of a message:
1. Don’t let the FDA spoon feed you the idea that if it’s okayed by the government, it’s okay for our bodies.
2. Watch what you eat. Literally… it might move and destroy you.

This summer the wife and I stayed for a weekend at her parent’s summer home in rural Michigan. In the backyard was a large garden that featured everything from pumpkins, zucchini, corn, green peppers, potatoes and even beets.
I know what a potato looks like – sitting on a Jewel grocery store shelf. But if one held a gun to my head and told me to pick out which leafy plant above ground held delicious potatoes in its basement (which Molly did, it is a fun game we play), I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue.

Good thing Molly’s step-dad knew though, and with one shovel dig he proved it by striking the earth and producing an oil-spring of fresh potatoes from under what I thought was a group of pesky weeds. It all looked like weeds to me, but I was assured there was food attached in there… somewhere.

Like “The Stuff,” this garden experience sent me two messages:
1. We are very, very disconnected from the food we put in our mouths… even the non-processed ones.
2. When the zombie apocalypse happens and those currently nice, soon to be undead, folks at the Jewel grocery store stop stacking those potatoes neatly on their shelves, a whole lot of people won’t know jack-spat about how to get food in their faces are screwed. Including this guy right here.

With that, I’m heading outside to plan my World War Z victory garden. I refuse to be one of the uneducated city-boy starvers! Now just where did I put that jackhammer?”

N-Rating: 2.0
Nick Rich i-screams:
"You would think at this point I would be accustomed to reviewing movies that aren't particularly good - I mean, we've been doing this almost a year! But, I'm sad to report, reviewing a poor movie is a lot like kissing your sister: you are forced to do it every now and again, but it never becomes enjoyable... well, at least it usually doesn't. (Note: I do not have a sister.)

That said, as Luke found out, kissing your sister can be enjoyable but only if you're not aware that she is your sister... and your mom is Natalie Portman. I fully realize that I'm not really making sense right now, and that is intentional - you see, I want you to feel what it is like to watch The Stuff. Much like my statement above about Luke, you kind of feel like you know what's going on and get a general sense of what's happening, but when you look at it more closely or try to follow along you only find yourself confused... so, you decide to just enjoy the weirdness and laugh. I mean, Luke kissing his sister is funny right?

Well, so is The Stuff! Once you get over the fact that the storyline jumps like a Mexican bean on speed and the relationships are so accelerated that they make the 'instant love' of pre-1960s movies look like a long courtship - you know, things like a semblance of realism that ground a viewer in the film. I know, I know, you'll say "Nick! This a movie about a living dessert that turns people into zombies!" And that's true... but that doesn't mean the movie can't seem plausible.

Often I have no trouble accepting the crazy things in a movie: talking apes, giant lizards, amorphous blobs trying to devour you, etc. These things don't take me out of a movie; after all, I'm watching a movie about crazy things happening, so I expect crazy things to happen. What I don't expect is skimping on the basics like relationships and behavior! It's like leaving out the flour when you're baking a cake!
You know, the cake won't rise or whatever (note: a baker I'm not).

You want examples? Fine!
  1. Mo meets the PR lady and she instantly wants to go back to his hotel room. Ok, fine, this is the 80's and he has just sold her the lie that he is an oil tycoon - BUT the next time they meet he has just told her that he completely lied to her and she's acting like it's all good and they've been married for 17 years. Come ON! I've never lived in New York, but I'm fairly sure this isn't normal behavior.
  2. Billy can't be taken down on his grocery store rampage by the copious amount of employees surrounding him for a full 5 minutes. Well, I suppose if I worked in a grocery store I may not care either.
  3. Mo meets Chocolate Chip Charlie, who attacks him ninja style, then punches him in the face . Mo then proceeds to tell Charlie he is investigating the same people as him and that makes everything cool. No distrust, no asking for a business card, nothing! The movie quickly takes on the facade of a buddy cop film, which just feels wrong.
  4. Mo saves little Billy from his fiending family and instantly takes him on a jet-setting adventure. Well, this was before Meaghan's Law, but still, this seems a bit hard to swallow.
As I've rehashed all of this, I realized that this movie would probably be better upon a second viewing... you know, when any expectations are long gone and you can just enjoy the zaniness of it. It does have some funny and entertaining moments. Oh, Nick... when will you learn to stop being so neurotic about your film expectations and just enjoy them?

Probably never.

The Skinny: Check this flick out if you're in the mood to live on the edge and eat everything in your refrigerator that's past it expiration date... expect to be spoiled by the experience.

Things We Learned from “The Stuff”:
-Commies put fluoride in our water.
-Being grounded for life still involves eating dessert.
-The Stuff kills the bad things inside us.
-Don't ever hide in an empty tanker truck. It'll get filled.
-Every 80s horror movie featured a kid protagonist.
-Mercenary soldiers have great, deep radio voices.
-Chocolate Chip Charlie eats guns for breakfast.
-A 10-year-old can shatter anything with a broomstick.
-One lick is never enough, of The Stuff.
-When you encounter a strange substance on the ground, don't eat it:

Quote of the Viewing:
[Nick and Chris sign onto Skype and start their Webcams for the viewing. The first thing they say to each other before even ‘Hi,’ is…]

Nick: “Hey man, do you have The Stuff?”
Chris: “Yeah, yeah, man, I have The Stuff. Do you have the money?”

RDHP Salute:
“The Stuff” Celebrity Guest Stars!
We don’t understand how a one-time movie can list in their credits “guest stars.” It is a one-time production, aren’t all the actors guests!? But we’ll let it slide in The Stuff, seeing as the “guest stars” in this movie are bright enough to singe straight through our retinas and blow out our frontal lobes: the permanently old Abe Vigoda and the Where’s the Beef Lady, Clara Peller!
The two old ass actors appear together in a mock “The Stuff” commercial.
Did you just wet yourself with excitement? Good, then I’m not the only one.

Abe Vigoda
Random Wikipedia “fact”:
Having played “old man” roles since the early 1970s, followed by a low profile acting career, Vigoda has since been frequently assumed to be dead. In 1982, People magazine erroneously declared him dead. Vigoda took the error with good humor, posing for a photograph in which he was sitting up in a coffin, holding the magazine in question.

Clara Peller
Random Wikipedia “fact”:
Peller didn’t get her start in acting until age 80. She was first hired as a temporary manicurist for a television commercial set in a Chicago barbershop. Impressed by her no-nonsense manners and unique voice, the agency later asked her to sign a contract as an actress. Though hard of hearing and suffering from emphysema, which limited her ability to speak long lines of dialogue, Peller was quickly utilized in a number of TV spot advertisements, including a new commercial for the Wendy’s Restaurant chain titled “Fluffy Bun.” It is here she spoke her condemnation of providing a lack of bovine muscle: “Where’s the Beef!”

RDHP Presents:
Random Stuff
Most of this stuff has nothing to do with the movie itself. But, hey, it is kind of related. Oh, no, we’re getting word all this is completely unrelated. Guess that’s what makes it random. And makes it generic “stuff.” Don’t fret your pretty head, just sit back and take it in. You only live once: enjoy!

The B-52s:
Good Stuff
The follow up "hit" to Love Shack. Yeahhh, you don't hear this one at many weddings.

The Right Stuff (1983)
Who knew the space race could be so exciting?! Tween Chris sure did in the 1980s when he was obsessed with this movie about the early NASA space program .

"Hey, what are ya? H.R. Shovenstuff?"
We're certainly not... and we're not quite sure who he is, but he may have been here:

What Dreams Are Made Of
The Eurythmics have been trying to tell us about this stuff for years!
Marilyn Manson tried a bit later, but we were too scared to listen...

George Carlin Rants About “Stuff”

The whole meaning of life is trying to find a place for your stuff. So true, George, so true.

What Webster's Dictionary Says About STUFF:
6.a. : fundamental material: SUBSTANCE of greatness>

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