Saturday, October 6, 2012

2012 Fall Scary Movie Season: 9/15 - The Stuff

The Stuff (1985)

I should warn anyone looking at this post now; this entry is going to contain as much information unrelated to the movie The Stuff as it will have of my own opinion of the film itself.  I did this basically because I might have more to say about the circumstances surrounding my viewing of the film than I do of the movie.  So, just be forewarned..... Years ago, perhaps in the vicinity of 20 of them, I remember sitting around watching TV at my grandparents place.  There wasn't a lot to do at my grandparents place for a kid my age at the time, and there wasn't anything like the channel selection they have now on the TV, either.  Options were limited, and you took what you could get.  I remember being reduced, at one point, to watching professional wrestling in the early to mid 90s at my grandparents house after I had been dropped off there by my parents (most likely in their attempt of respite, however brief, from my high and squeaky voice).

In the specific instance I am attempting to rehash now, I was alone in my grandma and grandpa's living room and there was a strange film I can still remember watching which I could tell was not of the most prodigiously acted films, even to my young eyes.  It featured people eating some white goo that I assumed had come from outer-space and getting addicted to it.  I remember being slightly on edge from the film despite what I remember thinking was a kind of soap-opera-ish production value.  However, I didn't even get to see the end of the film because I either got bored with it or my grandparents wanted to watch something else.  For whatever reason, the rather small amount of the film that I did see always stuck in my mind and I figured I'd never figure out what film that was and that it would be lost as another mystery of my small, personal, universe; like whatever happened to that blue toy station wagon I lost at my Aunt Cora's or whatever happened to that binkie I threw across the room in protest of a required nap.

The Wonders of the Internets

Over the past 10 years, with the nearly omnipotent presence that the internet has started to become, memories or information on early lifetime experiences you thought you'd never get the details of have become more easily researchable and accesible.  I've discovered the name of songs I didn't know the names of for years (from age 14 to 22 I knew the sound of but didn't know the name of How Soon Is Now by The Smiths), I've figured out how many goals Brush High School's David Antonelli scored on me and my high school soccer team my senior year (before my coach realized I should be put at forward so I could score goals**), and I've discovered that the girl across the street who I was certain I would marry at age six married another man and has had a baby with him even though she never broke up with me after she asked me to be her boyfriend on the stoop of her front door at approximately age eight (and no, Christina, I don't still love her).

So, when I Googled "people eating white stuff movie" about a week ago based on some minute memory of a movie I wasn't even sure existed, I figured if I kept looking long enough I'd find something.  Obviously it didn't take long, as the film is literally called The Stuff.  I thought I remember trying to do an internet search for this movie a few years ago and not getting any noticeable hits for it, but even if I had the fact is over the past few years you can google just about any poorly interconnected grouping of words looking for some odd ball thing and you'll likely find it if you've got the right kind of descriptors in the search engine.  Once I found out what movie it really was from all those years back, I immediately sought it out for my 2012 Scary Movie Season.

Reunited with the Greatness of My Youth Experience? 

 So after all this time, watching The Stuff was going to be a real treat, right?  IMDB has it ranked at 5.8 (as of this blog post), so it must have something going for it, correct?  Well, the immediate answer to that question is two pronged.  If you are like my girlfriend Christina, who really does enjoy good Horror films but who isn't likely to value the "so bad it's good" type film, then The Stuff likely won't be for you.  However if you are like my brother Douglas Biacofsky was, and would actually call friends over and a whole group of guys would seek out the Godzilla movies or Return of the Alien's Deadly Spawn, then The Stuff is going to be right up your alley.

A simpler way to explain what I tried to describe in that previous paragraph is The Stuff is a B-movie.  B-movie fans are likely the main cause of a 5.8 rating for this film on IMDB.  My girlfriend Christina, though, fell asleep to the film.  Listen, there are interesting things actually going on in The Stuff, if you feel like trying to dissect a film that, on the face of it, doesn't really compel dissection.  However, this is a B-movie, and should be judged as such.  Three things really relegate this film to B-movie standards and the first and most obvious is Larry Cohen.  Larry Cohen is traditionally known as a B-Movie director, though he has done some other work as well (including writing the screenplay for Phone Booth).  Secondly, the story itself is one of the more obvious B-movie style stories you're going to find anywhere.  The premise is probably a dead give away on that but the direction the film goes, as well as the behavior of characters and solutions to conflicts in the film, really seal the deal on stamping The Stuff as a certified B-movie gold.  Lastly (and the thing that I disliked the most about the film), the pacing, continuity, editing, and flow of this movie seemed so much like an amateur hour to me that even if the story was less goofy, you would likely still walk away from the movie whiffing the aroma of a B-movie schlop-fest.

Ironically (and apparently a trademark of Larry Choen) one of the other things this movie has is a set of complex analogies and themes within it that work together about as well as the editing does.  This is a film that pitches liberal ideas to its viewers (the fat cat CEOs of the world are out to enslave you), and promotes the efficacy and value of having conservative militant cult extremists as a backup to protect your rights and freedoms as an American.  Then, after all of that, it essentially expects you to take an anti-drug theme to heart.  The best way I would describe The Stuff, thematically, is schizophrenic.  Having said that, most B-movies don't even attempt to play with such higher end concepts.  So even though it is a mess, I think it deserves credit for having something more than "virgins live, whores die, and the bad guy is never actually dead" tropes going on througout.

Overall, I thought some parts were interesting and I thought some of the special effects were relatively impressive (even if they were The Blob knockoffs).  There was also some fun little humor in it, and the militant cult extremist leader's advice on cab fares will likely live on with me as one of the more pleasantly placed comedic scenes I've ever seen.  But most of my own appreciation stems from a personal enjoyment of B-movies, and I couldn't in good conscience tell people that The Stuff is a horror film must see.

** As a side note, to whichever one of my teammates who thought Antonelli was faster than me because they just had me run around and chase all the through-balls and everything else on defense; you were (and likely still are) an idiot.  

  2012 Fall Scary Movie Season Overall Rankings: 
  1. 9/8:     The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
  2. 9/6:     Ravenous (1999)
  3. 9/13:   Frozen (2010)
  4. 9/8:     ParaNorman (2012)
  5. 9/9:     Infection [Kansen] (2004)
  6. 9/15:   The Stuff (1985) 
  7. 9/7:     The Langoliers (1995)

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