Remembering The Stuff

Aug 26, 2013 at 8:49 am

While we still have Josh Malerman on the cover, it seems a good time to revisit The Stuff, a horror film from 1985 starring Detroiter Michael Moriarty.

Thanks to the glorious people at Netflix, The Stuff is available to watch at will, which is great. Kinda.

Here’s the thing; I remember being about 10-years-old, walking home from school and dropping by the video store on the way. I always made my way to the horror corner, because it felt risky and, at that age, naughty. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rent those films, but the guy who worked there would turn a blind eye while I starred awestruck at the video jackets. The fun was in the imagination. I’d read the synopsis, look at the pictures and try to figure out what happened. Texas Chainsaw, Creepshow, Hellraiser, Re-Animator, and The Burning were sleeves that I was obsessed with. The Stuff was another.

Of course, much of the time, the movie didn’t match up to the legend that I had built up around it by the time I eventually got to see it. The Stuff was definitely one of those films.

Moriarty was born in Detroit in 1941 and attended the University of Detroit High School. His dad was a Detroit police surgeon. He went to college in New Hampshire and later moved to England where he trod the boards for a few years and built up a respectable name in theater.

The same year as The Stuff, Moriarty appeared in Pale Rider. He would go on to star in such fine films as Troll, A Return to Salem’s Lot, and It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive, though he will probably be best remembered for his role as Ben Stone in Law and Order.

So back to The Stuff. An old dude finds thick, white goo oozing and literally bubbling out of the ground. For no good reason at all his first instinct is to taste it. Me, I’d kinda hurry on by there and just try not to tread in it but this guys eats the ground-goop without a moment’s hesitation. Whaddaya know, it’s delicious.

Before you know it, the grocery stores are full of The Stuff (as it is called), and people are buying it by the crate-load. It looks a bit like that Fluff, marshmallow in a jar, thing, but is as addictive as crack.

The moral of the story here is, don’t eat shit you find on the floor if you don’t know what it is, and especially if it’s bubbling. The Stuff, as it turns out, is alive and it possesses the people that eat it. Whole families are throwing out every other food item in the house and living 100% off of The Stuff. One young lad sees it moving in the fridge – never a good sign – so he won’t touch it. His mom and dad get pissed, possessed as they are, but he escapes and our hero, Moriarty, helps him out.

Despite the awesome jacket, the gore is minimal which is a shame. When it does come, it’s good fun. The Stuff crawls out of people’s mouths, stretching their heads in bizarre and unnatural ways and angles. Otherwise, this is a fairly typical “who’s the bad guy” movie. Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with yoghurt.

There was a message here. Don’t eat junk food and don’t fall prey to heavy marketing. But that was 28 years ago and we learned nothing from The Stuff. Oh well, the jacket is still great.