Another one of those reviews that some might construe as being a tad biased. As I did with Arrow’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 re-release, I contributed to this Blu-ray, in that I wrote its accompanying booklet. That piece on food in all its forms in horror and cult cinema? I wrote that. Still, as with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 set, this is a film I’d be recommending even if I had nothing to do with it.
When an unctuous white goo begins oozing from the ground in an industrial mine, man’s first reaction is to dip a finger in and start eating. I suppose that’s how most foodstuffs are discovered: trial and error. As it happens, The Stuff tastes good, and the powers that be are soon marketing it as a fabulous new dessert sensation. Like most things that taste great, there’s a catch – The Stuff is addictive, filled with micro-organisms (a bit like Bifidus Digestivum) and turns those who eat too much of it into zombies (also like Bifidus Digestivum, probably). It’s up to young Jason and industrial saboteur Moe to put a stop to The Stuff before it’s too late.
Directed by B-Movie auteur Larry Coen, The Stuff is the very definition of a cult classic. Scrappily done with dodgy acting, an iffy story and slightly obvious social commentary, it achieves success thanks to its practical effects, dry sense of wit and buckets of charm. It’s no Maniac Cop (written by Cohen and directed by William Lustig) but it is a lot of fun. The faux advertisements and promotional material is the film’s strongest suit, with its tagline – “enough is never enough” – going on to achieve a modicum of notoriety outside of cult horror fans. Even if you’re only dimly aware of it from the spoof Charlie and the Chocolate Factory episode of Futurama, you may recognise the tagline or retro sixties-style branding from elsewhere. It’s smartly done, quietly referencing such brands as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, suggesting that the big food corporations might not always have our best interests at heart.
Its sense of humour extends to the script, most notably in the characterisation of Michael Moriarty’s ‘Moe’ Rutherford. “No one is as dumb as I appear to be,” he drawls, before telling the delightful Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci) that everyone calls him Moe because he “always wants mo’”. Garrett Morris steals many a scene as ‘Chocolate Chip Charlie’ entering the film in a flurry of kung-fu and punching his way out through doors and zombies. Little Jason has slightly less to do (although a scene in which he trashes a supermarket’s display of The Stuff is fun) but his story is an interesting one. The action is great too, the very best scene being one in which a man is savaged by his Stuff-addicted dog. “I’ll buy more!” he screams in his death throes, the dog not impressed at the lack of Stuff in the fridge. To be fair, I had a similar reaction once when we ran out of Haribo.
Cult through and through, those who prefer their horror to be less tongue-in-cheek horror may be unimpressed by The Stuff. It’s a little slow, occasionally cheap and frequently daft, lacking in tension or scares. A lover of comedy horror, I loved it, but it certainly won’t be to all tastes. A lovely new collector’s edition for fans new and old, this is good stuff.
Video and Audio:
The 1080p High Definition restoration looks great – having only watched it before on Netflix, it was like a brand new film to me – and comes packaged with a standard definition DVD for those without Blu-ray capabilities. It sounds crisp and clear, in original 1.0 Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray). Frankly, The Stuff looks delicious.
Can’t Get Enough of the Stuff is an engaging, insightful 52 minute documentary featuring Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, critic Kim Newman, special effects man Steve Neill and actress Andrea Marcovicci. Fanboy and Saw director Darren Bousman gives an introduction and trailer commentary. It comes accompanied with a reversible sleeve (in case the fancy new artwork isn’t good enough for you) and the collector’s booklet, written by yours truly.