top of page

I Can't Get Enough of Larry Cohen's "The Stuff"!

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

Of all the obscure horror movies of the '80s, perhaps none are as underappreciated as Larry Cohen's 1985 film The Stuff. Why this epic hasn't garnered more of a following is a mystery to me. This article will be twofold: I'll give you a brief synopsis of The Stuff, and also show you a glimpse of my fandom. You might think there would be an extent to showing your love for a virtually unknown film. You would be right. As far as merchandising goes, Star Wars this ain't.

The Stuff chronicles the reign of terror caused by America's most popular new dessert (yep). This is not Mr. Cohen's only venture into unlikely horror territory: 1974's It's Alive, arguably his most famous work, is about a killer baby. (The tagline for that movie is: "There's Only One Thing Wrong with the Davis Baby... It's Alive.") I swear I'm not making any of this up. The Stuff is one of those movies that you should watch with some friends. If they don't like it, you need to consider a new social circle. My buddy Luke and I reference this film constantly.

Although "The Stuff" never expires, this article contains spoilers. (There's no extra charge for the double pun.)

Scene from Larry Cohen's horror film, "The Stuff."
Creepy parents are among the many dangers posed by the yogurt from hell.

The Stuff stars Michael Morriarty as David "Moe" Rutherford, a smooth-talking industrial spy hired by a group of snack food executives to uncover the secret behind "The Stuff." Also in the film are Garrett Morris of Saturday Night Live fame, Paul Sorvino and Scott Bloom. However, nobody can top the southern accent affected by Morriarty; it basically makes the movie.

The titular snack is a white, yogurt-like substance so addictive that it's taking its toll on the junk food industry's profits. The bigwigs want Moe to uncover the secret of "The Stuff," so that they can release copycat products. No one is prepared for the truth.

A pile of The Stuff tries to kill a boy in Larry Cohen's horror movie.
Quit forcing your perspective on me! (I know hardly anyone will get that, but I couldn't resist.)

It is discovered that "The Stuff" is actually a naturally-occurring, unknown substance mined directly out of the earth. ("No artificial ingredients" doesn't necessarily mean something is good for you.) The goo has psychoactive properties which possess all those who indulge, making them violent, crazed addicts. "The Stuff" is actually parasitic. It devours from the inside, and when it's done with the host, it leaves a disgusting aftermath:

Moe combines forces with a motley crew comprised of an ad executive, a chocolate chip cookie mogul, an army colonel and a boy who's wise to the true nature of the snack. Together they battle against insurmountable odds (a nation of junkies!) to forcefully bring down the powers which have brought "The Stuff" to market. But is this really the end of the gloppy killer? Probably not, or I wouldn't have posed the question.

I cannot recommend this movie enough; I even mentioned it in my dating profile. It was one of the first films that my wife and I ever saw together. (I am so thankful Adrienne likes horror films! I don't know if I could be with a woman who didn't. I knew when I saw Halloween 4 in her DVD collection that I'd hit the jackpot.)

How can you beat that last line? This is a trailer for the ages.

The VHS box art for this movie legitimately terrified me when I saw it on the video store shelf at nine years old. As a direct result of that, I bought the tape several years ago in one of my many video store raids. I had The Stuff in the back of my mind for over twenty years, and when I saw this cassette for sale, I knew the time had finally come. I fell in love with the movie instantly.

The Stuff VHS movie box in front of Pole Position arcade machine.
If you ever need a hand model, I'll give you my digits.

Don't happen to have a VCR laying around? The Stuff is available on DVD and Blu-Ray, because retro is relevant! This is a movie that I love to view on tape, as that's my earliest memory of it. I've never seen it any other way.

Of course, you've gotta love that classic VHS look for sheer aesthetics:

VHS horror films: They Live, Slugs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tremors.
Before anyone asks, I do have the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's on LaserDisc, my personal favorite format. Contrary to popular opinion, horror fans are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. (Source: Years of horror convention attendance.)

As I alluded to in my article on defunct video stores, things which terrified me at one point I now find to be of great interest. I am extremely excited to have procured a replica container of the evil snack. This article sat on the proverbial shelf for almost two weeks, until the "Stuff cup" came in the mail from England. (Its purchase is what prompted me to write this piece.) Last year, I was in talks with Larry Cohen's agent to obtain an autographed, screen-used cup. This was right around the time I got married, and life was getting crazy (which it remains). I emailed the agent about a month later, and never heard back from her. So, it seems as though this reproduction is as close as I am going to get for now:

Replica container of The Stuff horror film with spoon.

Now gaze in awe at my t-shirt, proclaiming my love for this low-budget gem to the world. I had to go through some serious aggravation to get this, including a PayPal dispute. I thought the guy had ripped me off. But a month after ordering it, I was totally owning the look. I never get any comments on this attire, and invariably get several every time I wear my Child's Play 2 shirt. (They aren't always positive.) What does this prove? The Stuff needs more exposure, and I'm just the guy to do it.

Larry Cohen The Stuff t-shirt.

Next up, I want to show you a decal I have on my scooter, a 2014 Kymco Like 200i LX (say that three times fast). But first, here's the bike itself. Don't let it fool you: This little number can carry two riders with ease, and has a top speed of about 70 MPH! (The following could probably have been a separate feature on the site, but I'll toss it in as a bonus for sticking with me thus far.) The barely-visible pill decal on the back box and the license plate are references to 1988's Akira, one of the best animated films ever. Time-Out was a legendary chain of arcades.

2014 Kymco Like 200i LX with Time-Out and Akira decals.

I really didn't forget the point of this article:

Kymco scooter with The Stuff horror movie decal.

It bugs me a little bit that the logo has a copyright symbol instead of a registered trademark indicia, but to my knowledge, all merchandising of The Stuff is fan-produced. To quote Sgt. Rhodes from another one of my favorites, Day of the Dead, "You work with what you got, Fischer."

For the sake of completion (read: OCD), I had to toss in these photos of my Child's Play and Ghostbusters references. This is almost too much '80s goodness for such a little scooter!

Child's Play Chucky decal sticker on Kymco scooter.
Chucky looks innocent, but packs a punch... just like the bike.
Ghostbusters Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man keychain hanging on a Kymco scooter.
No marshmallows were charred in the making of this article.

Finally, if you're jonesing for your fix of The Stuff, here's the whole movie on YouTube! Enjoy some CGI-free terror, courtesy of the greatest decade ever.


bottom of page