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Stuff, The

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Release Date: 
Anchor Bay
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Larry Cohen
Michael Moriarty
Paul Sorvino
Bottom Line: 

 Having always recalled the seriously cool VHS cover art as a kid, I thought that it was about time that I checked this one out. Perhaps I'd missed a classic horror with plenty of amusing social satire? 
It starts off well enough and then around the time that Garrett Morris turns up as "Chocolate Chip Charlie", it just become really painful to watch. Then Paul Sorvino arrives in quite possibly the most embarrassing performance of his entire career. A shame since Cohen clearly has fun lampooning the sex selling products, and 100% wholesome family advertisements of the era and there's an obvious underlying message about folks eating "stuff" which they clearly know is bad for them. A poster at a forum described this film as "a distinctly B- movie" and boy was he right!
The basic plot centers around a new taste sensation (with a mind of its own) being mined from a quarry and straight into the fridge of American consumers. I'm not too worried about low budgets if a film can hold your interest but after around an hour of watching shaving foam being poured down corridors or up walls, even I start to get bored. Michael Moriarty gives another fun performance as Mo the industrial espionage agent, but not even he can successfully combat a seriously under-developed script. The really sad part about this well-intentioned film is that the first half is quite good and then it starts to go horribly downhill.
There are some cool moments in here, namely the lampooning advertisements and the few head stretching/jaw breaking sequences where the stuff chooses to escape from its victims. But certainly don't expect anything horrific - you sure won't get it. Maybe I'm a bit harsh on this one - I mean just how seriously can you really take a film about a yoghurt dessert with a mind of its own? But after watching a great movie like "Q - The Winged Serpent," I expected a lot better from a team-up of Moriarty and Cohen. The film has charm...but mainly due to its large (and unrealised) ambitions and the whole b-movie nature of the thing. And the plot synopsis telling me that The Stuff turns it's consumers into "zombie-like creatures" hints of something that was never even filmed.
Moriarty teaming up with the "Chocolate Chip Charlie" character was an awful idea - Morris plays a former cookie magnate whose hands are "deadly weapons" leading to many embarrassing "Hi-Ya!!" type moments with the guy pretending to perform martial arts. I rest my case. Just when you think you've seen the last of Charlie, Cohen goes one better by introducing Sorvino as "Col. Malcolm Grommitt Spears", a cardboard cutout right wing military nut who spends all his screen time spouting out slogans like, "I will permit this colored man to speak... but, speak one word of the Commie party, or one word in code, and I will blow his head off."
I can handle crappy dialogue but when far too often, it's being delivered by actors in a manner as flat as a five year old balloon with shoddy sound recording to boot, you become seriously unimpressed. The editing of the film also deserves a mention - it's really sloppy and makes it extremely difficult for any feelings of tension and suspense to arise. The sad thing about this film is that not only did it have a great deal of potential but it does actually feature rather a good first half which is why it becomes so goddamn frustrating later on - the initial flaws are most definitely with the script.
This is an Anchor Bay release only recommended to Cohen die-hards or fans of kitsch and somewhat crappy low budget movies from the 80's. I don't feel stung but I certainly didn't shed any tears when I sold the disc on the very next week. The film is presented in an excellent 1,85:1 print with just some slight grain in some of the dark sequences. Sound is 2.0 only. In the way of extras, there's a fun commentary with Cohen and a trailer. A decent enough release for a close but no cigar type genre flick. 

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