Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator (1989)

Don’t Throw Your Love Away. Burn It.

Cover image to 1989's Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator

Wealthy eccentric couple Casey and Jared, along with their friend Robert, are so bored with the monotony of their privileged lives that they entertain themselves by putting on epic stage plays for their own amusement: each will assume a different identity and act out some grand, sweeping scenario. The deeper they go into these fantasies, though, the more difficult it is to tell what is real and what is just part of the game. Sex? Murder? Double-crosses? Triple-crosses? Or no crosses at all?

A fascinating, uneven, and absolutely maddening film, STUFF STEPHANIE IN THE INCINERATOR is one movie pretending to be another movie pretending to be another. It’s a postmodern thriller that wastes your time with glee, though you probably won’t be so happy. It is quite possibly a work of genius, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I would normally discuss the characters a little more in depth here, but I’m finding that a neigh-impossible proposition. The actors are playing characters (playing characters, and so on), and nothing is real, all is imaginary. It’s one non-stop weirdo RPG—or “transcendental theatrical”, as Jared calls it—where identities are as fluid as a raging river, so the actual characters can’t even be found until the finale. Remember that episode of THE BRADY BUNCH where the entire family put on a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves? Imagine only watching the scenes in which the play was being enacted, and then writing an essay on the Brady characters.

A theatrical from 1989's Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator

One great character moment (which, remember, is a lie) can be found about ¾ through the film: Casey is longing for the early days of her relationship with Jared, when they actually lived their own lives. Jared informs her that her perception of their past is incorrect. They weren’t really living their own lives. Those early days together were merely them acting out their first theatrical.

This is a truly difficult movie to dissect, because there’s virtually nothing real to examine. It’s like a coroner examining a mannequin to determine cause of death, because the real body is unavailable.

STUFF STEPHANIE IN THE INCINERATOR is, in theory, an interesting film. It is a Russian nesting doll of plot points and revelations. In that regard, I suppose it is postmodern by way of metafiction, which sounds as if it would be right up my alley. And that’s why this is such an infuriating film to me. Where it should be complex, it is confusing and convoluted; where it should be deep, it is silly and shallow. I’m all for a film that plays with perceptions and screws with your mind, but this movie doesn’t just misdirect, it straight up lies to you. And in the end, when everything is revealed, you really only learn one thing: when nothing is real, then there is nothing that matters—especially the preceding 90 minutes. It renders everything that you have just watched moot and pointless. And for a film that thinks it is so clever, that’s not very clever at all.

And maybe, jut maybe, that’s the most brilliant ploy ever pulled.

The danger of living the life in 1989's Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator

This movie was produced independently, and then picked up for distribution later by the folks at Troma. The lies continue with the way that they marketed the film. Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator is an absolute classic of a title, and the poster is very cool. However it does lend the impression that this is a twisted exploitation horror show, which is not true. It’s closer to a darkly comic psychodrama that occasionally pretends to be a horror movie. Furthermore, although there is an incinerator, at no point is Stephanie in a position to be stuffed into it. Hell, Stephanie doesn’t even exist! She’s just one of Casey’s make believe characters.

STUFF STEPHANIE IN THE INCINERATOR was written by Peter Jones and Don Nardo, the latter of who also directed it. If Jones’s IMDb filmography is to be believed, he only had two additional gigs beyond this film—writing an episode of SPENSER: FOR HIRE in 1988, and one episode of ELDORADO in 1992. Still, that’s one more credit than Nardo, who has just a single other listing—cowriting that same episode of SPENSER: FOR HIRE with Jones.

As for the primary cast? It appears as if none of them ever acted in movies or television again, unless they are credited under pseudonyms here.

Which would actually be quite fitting.


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