Sunday, August 22, 2010

Enough is Never Enough

I know today's post seems like the title of a Bond movie, but its actually a slogan from a low-budget favorite of mine which always gets me thinking about dessert and snack foods and the way such products are advertised and consumed.  I mean, how often do we ask ourselves what's in that pint of ice cream or that bag of chips.  Sure, we know the basic elements, but there's a TON of crap on that label that I have no idea what it is, or even how to pronounce it.  Researchers and journalists have all had a fun kick examining the Twinkie and what happens to it when it mutates in the microwave or when its been submerged in water...and have effectively proven that it can't possibly be food.  Yet people still eat it...why?  We must like the taste or something, or we've been seduced by what a Twinkie is supposed to be and thus want to be a part of it.  Either way, it goes against practical thought.  I suppose that Larry Cohen was thinking along the same lines when he wrote the script for this campy chiller.  Lets look at the film that asked "Are you eating it or is it eating you?" and have a taste of The Stuff.

It all begins innocently enough.  A humble foreman working at a mine notices something white and gooey bubbling up from the ground.  Through happenstance, he tastes some of it and finds that it tastes sweet and creamy.  Flash forward a few months and we find that a new dessert sensation is sweeping the nation.  Everywhere you go you hear and see advertisements for The Stuff, an ice cream-like product, and it seems that everyone is eating it.  Why shouldn't they?  It tastes great, it has no calories, its filling, and it doesn't even leave a stain if it falls on the floor.  It seems like its the perfect food.  However, competing food companies are curious about how The Stuff is made and enlist Mo Rutherford, an investigator, to find out for them.  Suspecting chemical tampering and bribery of the FDA, what Mo finds is much more disturbing.  The Stuff, the same goop that was bubbling up out of the ground in the beginning, is actually a living organism that devours those who eat it from the inside out and turns them into addicted zombies who want nothing more than to help The Stuff take over the world.  Is up to Mo, the advertising executive who invented the campaign, and a young boy who lost his family to the evil dessert to stop The Stuff and its minions from succeeding.

Yes, the idea of a killer dessert sounds dorky and one wonders how a director could actually succeed in making it sound scary.  Well, he doesn't really.  I mean, there are some wonderful moments of tension and suspense but the film's real success is how it uses a witty sense of humor about advertising and fads to paint a realistic picture of what a situation like this would really be like.  Once a product is approved by the FDA and goes out on the street, people consume it blindly until something goes wrong.  And the more popular a product is, the harder it is to get rid of it once a problem (no matter how small) is located.  I also love how many celebrity cameos he managed to get in the commercials, one of the best being the "Where's the Beef?" Lady asking "WHERE'S THE STUFF??" in a fancy restaurant.  On the performance side of things, Michael Moriarty is excellent as Mo, the sarcastic and tough hero.  The other actors are merely ok, but they do what needs to be done in a movie about killer ice cream.  If you've never heard of it...and I wager many of you haven't...you really should watch this.  It goes well along side 50s monster films.

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