|Modern Pulp||Jun 14 2020|
Obscure ’80s horror flick turns the idea of consumerism on its head.
Above you see a poster for Larry Cohen's The Stuff, an interesting piece of modern pulp cinema that premiered in the U.S. today in 1985. It's obviously a horror movie, and though it fails to be scary it succeeds as a wickedly clever anti-consumerist metaphor. Its underlying critique is that Americans will buy anything that's marketed with snazzy visuals and a good jingle, even things that are bad or even deadly for them. The Stuff takes that idea and runs with it, showing a nation addicted to a dessert that's actually a dangerous unknown organism. People eat it and it hollows them out physically and takes over their minds. While some victims succumb by snarfing the Stuff, others fall prey by being attacked by those infected. In this way entire towns are replaced, then the monsters move on to bodysnatch even more people.
Along the way Cohen's film takes swipes at regulatory capture by featuring FDA officials who approve the Stuff, at militias by casting a paramilitary group as the heroes, then exposing them as racist clowns, and at corporate greed by having the whole fiasco engineered by a shady cabal of one percenters. Yes, quite a lot of thought went into this baby. What didn't go into it was sufficient budget. And despite Cohen and company's obvious deeper intent, it's pretty safe to say most filmgoers didn't absorb the subtext. That fact can be confirmed by taking a glance at any of the numerous dayglow health killers on supermarket shelves today. So technically The Stuff flops both as a fright flick and a consumer warning. But it offers food for thought that remains relevant today, thirty-five years later, and it's certainly a movie unlike any other.
The StuffLarry CohenMichael MoriartyAndrea MarcovicciGarrett MorrisDanny Aielloposter artcinemahorrormovie review