Note: Arrow’s Region B locked Blu-ray for The Stuff is available via their website.
Horror director Larry Cohen updates the B-movie formula found in Fifties’ movies like The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers in The Stuff. A satirical take on the rising consumerism of the 1980s, a yogurt-like dessert is silently taking over people through the grocery shelves. Starring a young Michael Moriarity, its comedic spin on the material saves an incoherent story and a surprising lack of extreme gore for an independent film.
A mysterious substance oozes out of the Earth and gets packaged as The Stuff, a dessert that tastes better than ice cream and has virtually no calories. The product sweeps across America, becoming a huge brand on par with Coke and McDonald’s. A young boy, Jason (Scott Bloom), violently resists The Stuff when he becomes convinced it is alive and taking over people’s minds. David ‘Mo’ Rutherford Michael Moriarity) is an industrial saboteur, hired by a rival industry to find out the secret behind The Stuff’s success. Mo uncovers a deep conspiracy of Pod people behind the alien product, eventually teaming up with Jason and the head of advertising for The Stuff, Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci).
The Stuff looks innocuous at first glance, a tasty treat resembling ice cream or whipped cream. If a person consumes enough of it, they become a Pod person without an individual will of their own. Mo uses Nicole’s connections to sneak a closer look at The Stuff’s source. The final act involves a Col. Spears (Paul Sorvino) and his private army. It’s quite a leap in the story and ends up as a homage to the nonsensical portrayals of the Army from 1950’s Sci-Fi movies.
The Stuff is a B-movie through and through, even the actors give their performances with a wink-wink nod towards the audience. The F/X are somewhat limited and typical of a low-budget movie from 1985. There is almost a lighthearted approach to its tone as the plot rapidly progresses, often bypassing critical moments and story logic. Garrett Morris makes a hilarious cameo as a rival executive that has lost his company due to The Stuff and wants to prove it’s harmful. Its satirical edge makes The Stuff worth a look, though its brand of humor won’t be for everyone.
Arrow Video has supervised a new 2K transfer from the original film elements for this Region B-locked Blu-ray edition, producing substantial improvements in clarity and detail over prior DVDs. Most significantly, the 1.85:1 framed transfer shows more information on the left side of the frame. The 1080P main feature runs 86:31 minutes, encoded in AVC at an average video bitrate of 34.99 Mbps. This particular presentation has decent film-like fidelity for the given film stock, though the opening act has its noisy moments of excess grain.
The picture shows good to excellent levels of resolution and high-frequency detail, though some minor ringing is clearly evident. Its definition could be characterized as fairly sharp with a strong palette of saturated colors. Black levels are decent, rendering adequate shadow delineation and fine detail in the darker shots. Arrow has used relatively solid, clean film elements with no obvious damage. Some of the optical F/X introduce another generation of film into the process, lessening their clarity.
I can’t call this a perfect transfer but Arrow Video has performed a very respectable job on The Stuff, especially considering the limited budget. The cinematography is a tad bright for horror but this movie was always more interested in achieving an early Sci-Fi feel, anyway.
The sole audio option is a fine sounding 1.0 PCM soundtrack preserving the original mono mix. Dialogue is delivered cleanly and the sound F/X have appreciable oomph to them. This sonic presentation sounds better than most mono mixes heard on other low-budget horror films from the era. There are no significant impediments that prove distracting to the listening experience and most will be pleasantly surprised by the clear sounding audio.
Arrow Video provides optional English SDH subtitles in a white font.
This Blu-ray set also includes a DVD. We do lose a commentary by director Larry Cohen that was found on the original Anchor Bay DVD but gain a lengthy documentary running close to an hour. It covers a lot of ground, including a few of Cohen’s other movies.
- Can’t Get Enough of The Stuff: Making Larry Cohen’s Classic Creature Feature (52:09 in HD) – A documentary featuring Larry Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, actress Andrea Marcovicci, Steve Neill (mechanical makeup effects) and Kim Newman
- Introduction and trailer commentary by director and The Stuff fan Darren Bousman (01:47 in HD) – Current horror director Bousman briefly expounds on his love for this film and its themes.
- Original Trailer (01:35 in HD)
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- 24-page collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joel Harley, illustrated with original stills and promotional materials
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.