Home » The Stuff is a Smart Social Satire [Retrospective]

The Stuff is a Smart Social Satire [Retrospective]

The Stuff

Corporate espionage specialist David ‘Mo’ Rutherford embarks on an assignment to uncover the formula for the exceptionally popular dessert The Stuff. He quickly discovers that the ingredients are more closely guarded than the recipe for Coca-Cola. Mo also learns that it’s more than just the ingredients that the manufacturers of The Stuff are intent upon keeping under wraps. It seems that the popular treat is incredibly addictive and it is also able to control the thoughts of those that consume it on a regular basis.

The Stuff is a smart horror film that functions as both a monster movie and a satire of the ruthless nature inherent to profit obsessed corporations. The Stuff is a precursor to the better known but similarly themed social satire They Live. Both films offer biting social commentary in an entertaining package. They Live is ultimately a superior film but it’s entirely possible that The Stuff served as influence tot the 1988 John Carpenter classic.

The Stuff is written and directed by Larry Cohen (It’s Alive). His script is spot on. He effortlessly lambasts corporate America while telling a story that is entertaining with or without the subtext. The film is campy at times but still manages to prove its point.

In addition to penning a thoughtful screenplay, Cohen is equally effective at the helm. He elicits fine performances from his cast that match the film’s satirical tone but also keep the audience amused.

Michael Moriarty (Blood Link) is smartly cast as Mo. He brings an effortlessly affable quality to the role that makes him completely believable as a corporate spy. Garrett Morris (Children of the Night) is also terrific as Chocolate Chip Charlie. He is the comic sidekick but unlike a lot of comic sidekicks, he isn’t totally disposable. He actually serves to enhance the film rather than just taking up screen time.

The Stuff takes a lot of its cues from the monster movies of yesteryear but it puts a modern spin on the ages old tale of man vs. monster. The film is similar in tonality to the camp classics of yesteryear and features a variety of intentionally over-the-top exchanges. At times, the camp factor outweighs the underlying message but the film is always entertaining in spite of that.

The effects are definitely dated by today’s more stringent standards. They don’t hold up particularly well. But that will likely provide a sense of nostalgia for anyone fond of the stop motion style FX that were commonplace at the time of the film’s initial release.

If you’re looking for gratuitous nudity, you will be disappointed in The Stuff. There is a surprising lack of bare skin in the film. It’s not as if a nude scene was called for and left out but films from this era typically include some gratuitous nude scenes. However, Larry Cohen’s The Stuff is surprisingly void of anything particularly salacious.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out The Stuff it is worth a look. It’s currently available on DVD from Image Entertainment. The latest DVD release is unfortunately lacking any special features, save for the original trailer. The previous release via Anchor Bay offered an insightful director’s commentary track that is absent from the current incarnation. The Anchor Bay release is available used via several online resellers but the asking price is quite inflated considering the Image Entertainment DVD is going for under $10.00.


Director(s): Larry Cohen
Writer(s): Larry Cohen
Stars: Michael Moriarty, Garrett Morris,
Year: 1985
Studio/ Production Co: New World Pictures
Budget: $1.7 Million (Estimated)
Language: English
Length: 93 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Monster Movie


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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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