When I was a kid, the one thing I found more terrifying than a scary movie was walking down the scary movie aisle at my local video store. There were no shortage of lurid video covers to draw the eye, but that always stuck in my mind was The Stuff, which was advertised with a grotesque image: a man, face twisted in horror, with an inexplicable white liquid spewing out of his mouth and eyes. I had no idea what it meant – which made it all the more terrifying.
Later in life, I worked up the courage to rent The Stuff, and was happy – if not a little disappointed – to learn that it wasn’t the nightmarish shocker I had always imagined. Instead, it’s an endearingly goofy horror-comedy that doubles as a satirical takedown of mid-80s consumer culture.
The Stuff stars Michael Moriarty as Mo Rutherford, an FBI agent-turned-industrial saboteur. The dessert market has suddenly been cornered by a delicious, mysterious white goop, which is being packaged and sold as “The Stuff” to insatiable demand from consumers. The Stuff is a miracle food: delicious, filling, and free of calories. But its near-monopoly on the dessert industry has enraged the all-powerful ice cream conglomerate, which hires Mo Rutherford to figure out the secret to the product in an attempt to take it down. Along the way, he’s joined by a boy whose family has fallen victim to The Stuff’s dark secret:
As Mo learns the dark, deadly secret behind The Stuff, he assembles a colorful host of allies in the quest to pull it off the shelves for good. For a film with such an apparently low budget, The Stuff has a surprisingly accomplished cast, including Danny Aiello, Paul Sorvino, and Garrett Morris as the onetime dessert king Chocolate Chip Charlie. They even got Clara Peller, who played Wendy’s “Where’s the beef”? lady, to show up and say, “Where’s The Stuff?”
This is probably a good time for me to clarify that I’m not recommending The Stuff as some long-forgotten horror classic. This isn’t an underappreciated, shoulda-been-an-Oscar-contender – but it is a perfectly ridiculous movie to watch with a few friends and a six-pack of beer. Years and years after I was first terrified by its cover, The Stuff has become an unlikely staple of my Halloween movie lineup. As the unforgettable jingle in the movie says, “you just can’t get enough of The Stuff.”
Your weekly streaming recommendation: The Stuff