The fridge is one of the most dangerous weapons on the planet. Despite being an integral part of the dining experience, it can also harbor horrors that slowly but surely corrode the human body, should we never choose to question what it is we're eating. "The Stuff" asks us to consider a product that not only makes us susceptible to its tantalizing advertisements but also gradually destroys the brain and body, turning people into an anthropomorphic paste that looks like if you filled a hot tub with curdled greek yogurt. It transforms the traditional family-dinner-table dynamic into something more vapid and obsequious. As we consume it, it consumes us.
The story takes place in the mid-'80s, right around the time Snack Packs started switching from aluminum to plastic containers, and a couple of years before the inception of Kid Cuisine. "The Stuff" is a product that seems to be as about as American as the "pasteurized" cheese in Lunchables, and everybody is diggin' it. It's a scourge, and no one can stop eating it. No one, it seems, except for Jason (Scott Blum), a kid who saw a container of The Stuff moving on its own in the fridge, and is freaked out by the product as a result. With the help of a former FBI agent turned sorta-corporate saboteur turned militant anti-Stuff revolutionary "Mo" Rutherford (Michael Moriarty), his love interest/The Stuff advertising executive Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci), and the on-and-off presence of dethroned-by-The Stuff-business-mogul “Chocolate Chip Charlie" Hobbs (Garrett Morris), Jason vows to destroy The Stuff and prevent the American people from stuffing it down their gullet.
On a surface level, it's a bizarre B-movie take on commercial culture. And it takes place at the halfway point of Reagan's presidency, so everything pop-culture related functions as a crazy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cowabunga pizza party that feels a little cult-ish. But deeper, it's an oddly allegorical movie for a generation that has so quickly succumbed to constantly generating vices, such as our obsession with self-validation via social media, tablets, etc. The addiction is so widespread and so embedded in our lives that it's not really a thing worth questioning anymore.
The same thing applies with food. There's a saying that goes "don't eat anything you can't pronounce," and one of the oddest things is most of the food that's targeted for children has so many ingredients you've probably never heard of unless you work in a factory that manufactures these things. With FDA constantly limiting its regulations (shout out, Monsanto), the horrors of food are something we rarely stop to think about.
"The Stuff" is a gross but welcome revolution against these kinds of products. The acting can be really wooden, the plot is pretty contrived, but goddamn is the idea of "The Stuff" convincingly horrific. Watching people pile into an ice cream stand at two in the morning just to eat The Stuff makes us reflect on our own addictions with junk food, and how it does way more harm than good. If you get high and watch this movie, make sure you eat food from a farmers market and that you're on really good terms with vendor. Otherwise, you'll probably puke.
PIZZA PARTY AFTER DARK is at The Windup Space at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 23 screening "The Stuff" along with "STREET TRASH."