Cult Movies 101: The Stuff

An alien gets confused for a dessert dish and Americans get addicted to it? Yeah, the idea behind Larry Cohen’s 1985 motion picture “The Stuff” is pretty damn cool. But that’s where it all ends. With a script that is almost too wacky to be taken seriously, sitting through this film is a feat in itself. It’s one of those movies that are so bad that you can’t help but scoff throughout. Behind the good cast and some cool moments, but there isn’t enough to keep you from laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

In spite of the litany of failures it possesses, it’s still one of those cheesy ‘80s B-Cult movies you have to experience once. The lapses in logic and the big names attached it alone make it something that’ll never happen again.

The plot could have been memorable. It has alludes to old school horror, with a social commentary on commercialism, marketing and liberalism. But when it all comes together, all you have is wacky characters, lackluster dialogue and an alien life form that is never as awe-inspiring as it could have been.

The plot is utterly hilarious from the first scene. An old man [whom we never see again after that scene] finds a substance in the snow and accidentally tastes it- following the American dream, he eventually sells it to the masses as a one of a kind dessert, which quickly becomes known as “The Stuff.” Add in a fantastic marketing campaign and all of a sudden, the entire country is eating it. Naturally, the ice cream companies aren’t happy, so they hire a cocky private investigator, company saboteur and former FBI agent, David “Mo” Rutherford [Michael Moriarty] to find out more about “The Stuff.”

Anyone that remembers Moriarty from his role in “Bang the Drum Slowly” or the host of other decent works he’s been in over the last 40 years, should be prepared for one of the worst performances of his career. However, many of the problems with his character have little to do with him. His lines are so beyond cheesy that its impossible to take him serious. He’s badass and able to outsmart anyone he wants, but the script never allows him to maintain any type of consistency.

That’s because after the first 20 minutes, the film, which was already wacky, makes even less sense. It tries to thread together three narratives, with a host of side characters, all played by actors, who, in spite of their mediocrity in this film, later on, became respected in entertainment. Paul Sorvino, Danny Aiello, Garrett Morris and Andrea Marcovicci play their roles with energy, but the script, which has them play characters such as an overtly conservative Colonel, a FDA employee, a former chocolate chip cookie company owner and a public relations guru, all feel too forced and phony.

The lack of logic doesn’t help either. Any film that has 25 soldiers jump in cabs to go to a factory to take down an evil food company automatically loses logic points. The whole misplaced ending is a wreck as well and doesn’t solve anything. It just sets up a sequel.

Obviously, one never came.

About Patrick Hickey Jr. 13063 Articles
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief, Master Jedi and Grand Pooh-bah of and is the author of the book, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews with Cult and Classic Video Game Developers," from leading academic and non-fiction publisher McFarland and Company. He is currently the Assistant Director of the Journalism Program at Kingsborough Community College and is a former News Editor at NBC Local Integrated Media and a National Video Games Writer at the late He has also had articles and photos published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Complex and The Syracuse Post-Standard. Love him. Read him.

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