Larry Cohen's astute satire of 1980s consumerism The Stuff wisely puts silliness above horror. A send up of all the diet crazes and advertising campaigns of the decade, the film really gets to the seamy underbelly of the decade that more sincere efforts never approached. The product in the film a low calorie sweet cream that tastes delicious - with a few side effects!
Michael Moriarty stars as a good ol' boy detective hired by a candy company to discover the origins of the new food craze. Growing up, I mostly associated Moriarty with the serious roles he played in Bang the Drum Slowly and the steely prosecutor Ben Stone on Law & Order, but Cohen's movies really got to his more manic side, even more so in Q:The Winged Serpent (1982). I remember reading Stephen King wanted Moriarty to play Jack Torrence in The Shining, an actor who could be sensitive, sympathetic, and manic. A combination of Christopher Walken and Jon Voight.
Those who recall the cola wars, where's the beef, Folgers in your cup, and the California Raisins will appreciate Cohen's critique: we are becoming a culture who will buy anything that looks good on TV. Like many 1980s movies, it's also a call back to the 1950s. Many films come to mind, especially The Blob. The funky special effects also have their own nostalgic value. Although The Stuff rarely gets mentioned in retrospectives of 1980s horror, seek it out!
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