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Film / The Stuff

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Are you eating it or is it eating you?

"Just can't get enough... of The Stuff!"
— Commercial jingle for The Stuff

The Stuff is a 1985 Horror Comedy movie directed, written and executive produced by Larry Cohen about a snack food that is actually a living, mind-controlling, addictive... stuff. It also apparently hollows out its victims and turns them into extremely fragile puppets. The movie is something of a satire about consumerism, with the world needing to be saved from a corrupt junk food empire.

The runaway success of The Stuff starts to cut into the profits of ice cream companies, so they hire David "Mo" Rutherford (Michael Moriarty) to do some industrial spying. He slowly uncovers that The Stuff's producers have a lot of secrets, and people have all moved to a single town to produce it. With the help of "Chocolate Chip Charlie" (played by Saturday Night Live veteran Garrett Morris), a former snack food mogul and martial artist, they discover the plot to export the parasitic monster to the world, and stop it with the help of a retired Colonel and his personal militia.

There's also an almost completely unrelated plot thread about a small kid who sees The Stuff moving and flat-out refuses to eat it, despite the increasingly creepy demands of his family that he should do so. He flips out and destroys a grocery store trying to get rid of The Stuff, and for some reason, the main cast comes and inducts him into the resistance after seeing a story about them in the news.

Are you troping it or is it troping you?

  • Analogy Backfire: During the raid on the Stuff factory:
    Jason: What about The Vietnam War, sir?
    Colonel Spears:: We lost that war at home, son.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Inverted in that the dog immediately takes to the visiting Mo, while its owner is terrified of it. Made funny by the fact that the "angry" is supplied by dubbed in growling and barking (from the wrong breed of dog) and the camera cutting out its wagging tail as much as possible.
  • Anti-Climax: Spears' men take over a radio station and broadcast their warning about the dangers of the Stuff... and then cut to Nicole talking directly to the camera about how everyone immediately believed them and the Stuff was outlawed and destroyed. It was apparently just that easy.
  • Alien Blood: People who've been assimilated by the stuff bleed white, of course.
  • Asshole Victim: Jason's family, who bully him and mistreat him before they become full-blown Stuffies. Subverted because Jason still laments their deaths in a couple of subsequent scenes.
  • Assimilation Plot: What the Stuff wants.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Marshmallow cream, by all appearances.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The protagonists, with Col. Spears' help, manage to broadcast the Stuff's harmful effects, getting enough people to turn against the product and destroy it. However, despite these successful attempts to stop distribution of the Stuff, the film ends with several people addicted to it smuggling many containers of it away. The Stuff is still out there, with the strong implication that it can't be fully stopped.
  • Brand X: Oddly, the titular monster.
  • Black Dude Dies First: While Chocolate Chip Charlie doesn't technically "die" until he shows up again at the end of the film, he's the only member of the anti-Stuff team to end up getting turned into a Stuffie, and it's implied this happened fairly early on in the film.
  • Blob Monster: The Stuff is occasionally this, though it prefers to appear in human hosts.
  • Body Horror: The Stuff tends to hollow out its victims. It's also fond of massively distorting their bodies when it comes out of them.
  • Catchphrase: David "Mo" Rutherford.
    "You know why the call me Mo? Because I always want mo'."
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Mo and the kid forcing the heads of the company that sold the Stuff to eat several pints of it at gunpoint until the cops show up.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: All of the food executives (except Charlie), and especially Fletcher. Fletcher in particular knew the stuff was pure evil and was smart enough not to eat it himself, but was still fine with distributing it to the world. The denouement even shows that after the Stuff was stopped, he's planning on starting it all over again by selling ice cream ("The Taste") laced with a "safe amount" of "only" 12% of the Stuff.
  • Delicious Distraction: At one point Rutherford manages to stop a Dirty Cop from arresting him by pointing out that there's a really large amount of spilled Stuff on the road. The cop bends over to eat some, allowing Mo to knock him out.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: All that it takes people to go and destroy all of the Stuff (that they can find) is by the heroes taking over a radio broadcast and telling them that the Stuff is evil.
  • The '80s: The commercial shoot is nothing short of amazing—the hair, the music—the everything.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Stuff is a weird, mind-controlling Blob Monster that came from deep Beneath the Earth and drives people to eat it, turning them into mindless, white-bleeding husks.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Colonel Spears is a bit of a sex fiend, as well as a Blood Knight who admits that he enjoys the sight of blood and a freaking racist. However, even he's grossed out by the Stuff oozing out of its hosts.
  • Fashion Show: An ad shoot for The Stuff is done by having fur coat models strutting down a catwalk as they hold containers of The Stuff.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Ads for this movie famously treated the Stuff as though it were an actual product available in the real world.
  • Functional Genre Savvy: The characters figure out they're in a movie about zombie-making, mind-controlling slime rather quickly with a minimum of obvious evidence.
  • Going Fur a Swim: In the ad shoot mentioned above, the models wear full-length furs over swimsuits, fitting the "sexiness and glamour" style of advertizing.
  • Honking Arriving Car: Inverted and shown from the driver's point of view. Upon his arrival in Stader, Virginia, "Mo" Rutherford honks his horn to get the attention of a gas station attendant, who is unseen indoors. The attendant comes out to fill Rutherford's tank, and Rutherford asks him questions about the area.
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!: The Stuff's parallels to cocaine are pretty blatant.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: "Well, everybody has to eat shaving cream once in a while."
  • Impossibly Delicious Food: Played for Horror.
  • It Came from the Fridge: Not quite, since it was evil before it got there, but the scene where the kid opens the fridge and finds some moving around invokes it.
  • It's Personal: Jason has a grudge against the Stuff for taking over his family, even talking to it at one point.
  • Just Desserts: The denouement has Rutherford forcing Fletcher to eat dozens of gallons of the Stuff at gunpoint.
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the best ways to kill pure Stuff is by setting it on fire — kerosene and electrical both work.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: "Chocolate Chip Charlie" bears a strong resemblance to Wally Amos, the creator of Famous Amos cookies.
  • Made of Plasticine: The "Stuffies" break apart rather easily when punched.
  • May Contain Evil: Boy howdy. Addictive zombie-making micro-organism sludge is our Greater-Scope Villain monster of the day.
  • Meat Puppet: The Stuff hollows out its victims and can leave their hollow shells lying around when it's done with them.
  • Men of Sherwood: The Right-Wing Militia Fanatic group recruited to hijack a TV studio and expose the sinister nature of the eponymous substance do their job successfully and without being killed.
  • Mining for Cookies: Deconstructed. The Stuff resembles whipped cream and is addictively delicious. Production involves nothing more than pumping it up like oil and putting it in tubs. It's really an amorphous Puppeteer Parasite.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Colonel Spears orders his men to give generous tips to the cab drivers that take them to the radio station and to get back receipts.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Mo starts calling the Stuff-addicted zombies "Stuffies" (or "Stuff-Maniacs" in the Latin American Spanish translation) pretty quickly.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Mo uses it on his job.
    Ice Cream Executive: Well, it seems you're not as dumb as you appear to be.
    Mo: No one is as dumb as I appear to be.
  • Only Sane Man: Jason. It Began with a Twist of Fate — if he hadn't seen the Stuff moving...
  • Pretty in Mink: The furs worn by the ladies, in the ads, gives the product an image of class and glamour.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: The Colonel has an obvious beef with black people, and the film doesn't gloss over it which is striking given the film's otherwise light tone. Granted, it seems to be less the traditional racial animus and more his perception that all black people are liberal communists.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The Stuff initially focuses on getting the infectee to devour more of it. When it reaches critical mass within the victim, it moves on to forced recruitment, organized distribution of the Stuff then finally plain aggression against anyone not infected with the Stuff.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Colonel is probably a parody.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Stuff apparently bubbles up from the center of the Earth.
    • It also comes sealed in a convenient ice cream tub.
  • Sex Sells: The ad shoot has models wearing swimsuits under their fur coats.
  • Skewed Priorities: Spears' interrupts his men's charge through the streets of Atlanta to pay and tip the cabbies, and get receipts.
  • Sniff Sniff Nom: Pretty much how the movie starts.
  • The Unintelligible: The protagonist, Mo Rutherford, slips into this at times. His strong Southern accent and tendency to mumble make a good chunk of his dialogue incomprehensible.
  • Wham Line: Mo says it all.
    Mo: Are you eating it? Or is it eating you?
  • Your Head Asplode: The ultimate fate of Chocolate Chip Charlie when the Stuff evacuates his body. It's even worse than it sounds, as it basically happens SLOWLY.


Video Example(s):


"Where's the Beef/Stuff?"

In an in-universe commercial for The Stuff, they do a reference to the Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" ad campaign.

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5 (3 votes)

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