Enough is never enough of the stuff!
Larry Cohen – A Legend in His Own Right
When it comes to low budget, not quite for the mainstream horror – I always say look to the 2 L’s: Lloyd Kaufman, and Larry Cohen. Two incredibly different but incredibly important people from an era where horror movies where being pumped out into theaters partly due to the slasher horror boom of the 80s. Cohen was a distinct voice letting actors improv, having plots that often seemed half formed and nebulous to pin down. Even one of his most well known movies: Q the Winged Serpent is easy to explain (a winged dragon takes up residency with its egg in the Chrysler Building) but the actual film is a lot looser than a succinct plot description could capture (there’s a criminal that also wants to be a jazz pianist- seriously it’s something from one of the kids’ films in Home Movies).
The Stuff (1985)
If it’s funny, incisive and accessible, does satire really need to be smart? One of the best lowbrow horror comedies of the 80s certainly doesn’t think so!
Plot synopses from Wikipedia: Several railroad workers discover a yogurt-like white substance bubbling out of the ground. These workers find it to be sweet and addictive. Later, the substance, marketed as “The Stuff,” is being sold to the general public in containers like ice cream. It is marketed as having no calories and as being sweet, creamy, and filling. The Stuff quickly becomes a nationwide craze and drastically hurts the sales of ice cream.
Former FBI agent turned industrial saboteur David “Mo” Rutherford is hired by the leaders of the suffering ice cream industry, as well as junk food mogul Charles W. “Chocolate Chip Charlie” Hobbs, to find out exactly what The Stuff is and destroy it.
This movie wears its satirical message proudly on its, well, everywhere: capitalism sucks and will take gambles with the general public’s wellbeing in the pursuit of higher profits for the people at top. Also if you find a weird white substance from space, probably don’t put it in your mouth.
While the plot has a shaggy dog feel at times, it certainly does build up to a pretty action-packed climax. Other than being gross, The Stuff doesn’t offer a lot in the way of scares, but sometimes in a monsters/blob/thing movie what we should ask at least is “does this thing make me squirm?” and this white, sticky not quite marshmallowy substance does indeed make me squirm – especially the thought of consuming it (and total honesty, I love mayo more than the average human probably should).
Some of the movies I’ve done brief write-ups this month were meant to be like mini entry points into larger subgenres: Asian horror comedies (Hausu), obscure found footage films (Last Broadcast), but The Stuff is really a great entry point into the horror world of Larry Cohen; a real B-movie auteur and maker of the some of the most distinct, off kilter genre films of the late 70s- early 90s.
Feel free to share any fun Larry Cohen memories below and if not super aware of the guy beforehand, please check out his stuff!