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Addictive, Destructive, Delicious: How To Sell a Movie Like ‘The Stuff’

How do you sell an anti-capitalist eco-horror about evil yogurt? With a totally straight face of course.
The Stuff
By  · Published on April 20th, 2020

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Warning! We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you an urgent message regarding The Stuff.

While it may not be as well-known as The Blob or The Thing when it comes to 1980s horror flicks about evil, all-consuming goop, 1985’s The Stuff deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with the best of them. The movie follows an ex-FBI agent called Mo (a gloriously untethered Michael Moriarty) who has tasked himself with figuring out what’s in “The Stuff,” a trendy dessert that has taken American homes by storm. As Mo’s investigation unfolds, the nefarious effects (or as it turns out: purpose) of “The Stuff” comes into focus: Are you eating it? Or is it eating you?

While The Stuff is certainly, uh, goofy as all hell⁠ — the movie is not shy about its concerns regarding the dangers of advertising, the FDA’s relationship with for-profit industries, and our wanton disregard for the sanctity of the planet. So, how do you market an anti-fracking, anti-capitalist horror film about evil yogurt? And, perhaps more interestingly: how do you market a film that is, at its core, anti-marketing? With a straight face, of course.

You can watch the trailer for The Stuff here:

Who made this?

The Stuff was directed by Larry Cohen, the patron saint of sleaze that makes you think. For the uninitiated, Cohen is best known for treating absolutely batshit/unconventional premises (see: evil yogurt) with a humanistic lens and a sympathetic touch. For many of us, Cohen is right up there with William Friedkin and Abel Ferrara when it comes to filmmakers who’ve quintessentially captured New York City on film. Cohen’s gonzo gait and enormous heart make him a fascinating character study, and if you’re looking for where to begin when it comes to tackling his cinematic corpus, here’s where to start.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).