White Elephant Blogathon: The Stuff (1985)

by Jaime Grijalba.

For the past few years I’ve participated in Paul Clark’s ‘White Elephant Blogathon’ where a bunch of bloggers and writers of many places around the world, as well as different styles of reviewing, submit a film that they deem worthy of seeing… well, not really, the thing is that people actually submit films that will torture that other random blogger that is under the obligation to see it and write a review about it. I’ve had good years and bad years, like the first one where I had to see that abomination that was ‘The Suckling’ (1990), but I had a pretty good time with the pretty interesting yet uninspiring ‘The Cardinal’ (1963). This must be the first year where the film submitted to me was actually a bummer, not only I had already seen it, but I had already reviewed it for my older blog. And now, since I’ve changed and now I’m writing in (subpar) english, I shall go forward and translate my earlier review, maybe tweak it here and there, and call it a day, maybe I’ll attract some readers and get this party started.

We have in our hands a film too interesting in many terms. First, it’s a movie that really shows the capitalistic way of life that the americans were having during the 80’s, it’s an amazing and accurate portrait to the world of commercials and publicity and how products were put in the mind of the people. It’s an impressive portrait specially in terms of consuming, positionate and selling one particular product, in this case, a mysterious white ice cream with an irresistible flavour, who at the same time would have a conscience beyond itself (communitary and at the same time individual) that produces, when eaten, a brain wash that makes people want to eat more and more, and then oblige other people to eat it. It’s in this particular world that the film by Larry Cohen (who also directed the also decent enough ‘Q’ (1982), really interesting). Now, that interest is represented in the way of constructing, editing and telling the narrative of the story, through parallel stories about the experience of the product called ‘The Stuff’, showing us happenstances of a kid that refuses to eat it after he saw ‘the stuff’ move, and about an industrial spy who wants to know what is inside the product in order to copy it… demonstrating, in one hand, a typical facet of the 80’s flicks on one side (the kid’s experience), and then, entering into a more political-economical concept on the other. Everything is intercut and transitioned using the commercials for the killing product.

All this comes to a point where the publicist of the many commercials that we’ve seen joins the kid and the spy in the way of discovering what is actually happening. It sounds fascinating, and for a lot of the runtime it is, but there’s certain flatness and bad montage rythm makes the whole endeavour and experience maybe a bit too long than it should’ve been. Even if it isn’t longer than 90 minutes, it sure feels longer and tedious since the moment in which every parallel storyline meets and the movie starts to be about how they discover that the substance is from alien origins, as well as the whole affair of destroying the industry that is producing it… later the fun comes back, but again it’s stuck here and there, and the movie gives itself many opportunities to end, but they are never given fruition. The main issue is that even if there’s so much time given to the discovering what the substance is, we already can guess that the stuff is evil and that it’s not from this world, but we won’t know much more either, we yell at the screen so the protagonists leave this behind and warn the public. It’s in this adventure of ‘warning the public’ that the morality of the message of the message in the movie and it’s metaphor/condenation to capitalism and specially to junk food becomes a tad bit dark and politically complicated. But at the end, I think that the fact that the movie goes that route is admirable inside its own world, even though it isn’t of my complete agreement.

I recommend this movie with some caution, not many are going to stand to see this film, and seriously it turns many times into a situation comedy about the main characters facing ‘The Stuff’, specially in the ending sequences. Nevertheless, if you can put many things behind, it may be a tad bit more profound than most of what you’ve seen this week.

7/10

4 responses to “White Elephant Blogathon: The Stuff (1985)

  1. The Stuff! I’m kind of surprised this was submitted for the ‘thon — in my circle of film friends, The Stuff is legendary in its awesomeness. Great post!

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