So once again we have survived.

C.H.U.D.

tn_chudI’ve never had HBO or Showtime, including in the ’80s, so I only know C.H.U.D. as a reference. But we still have a video store here in Seattle and I was looking at the box one day and these glowing-eyed cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers looked pretty cool so I figured it was time I learned what all this is about.

If you never saw it either I’ll tell you what I have learned. It’s about a rash of disappearances among “undergrounders,” the homeless who find shelter in the underground tunnels of New York City, like in that documentary DARK DAYS. (This would be cooler if it had a DJ Shadow score, but the one it has by David A. Hughes is pretty good.) The authorities don’t really care until it starts happening to people who live at surface level in a higher class. There’s a nicely shot title sequence with a cool keyboard theme playing as a monster arm reaches out of a steaming manhole to snatch a woman out walking her little dog. It’s a powerfully simple opening that really sets the scene for a fun, energetic movie that doesn’t quite materialize.

mp_chudA police captain  named Bosch (Christopher Curry, HOME ALONE 3) gets involved because his wife disappears, and he goes to talk to this guy A.J. (Daniel Stern, HOME ALONE) who runs a soup kitchen and reported 12 of his regular undergrounders missing. These two are weirdly dickish and uncooperative with each other because they used to be on opposite sides of the law. But eventually they team up, explore the tunnels, find evidence that the city already knows what’s going on here, and threaten to go to the media if they won’t tell them what’s what. There’s some kind of coverup here and it’s pissing them off. People are being chudded.

Also the movie and the cops follow “George Cooper, prominent fashion photographer” (John Heard, HOME ALONE) who would rather be seen as a real Artist. He throws an artistic integrity fit while shooting his model girlfriend Lauren (film debut of Kim Greist, HOMEWARD BOUND: THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY) for a perfume ad, and dodges phone calls from his editor hassling him about a deadline.

George knows that True Art cannot be rushed (that’s why my reviews of new movies never come out until after they’ve been out for at least a few days). He’s been working on a series of photos of the city’s homeless, but has had trouble getting a hold of some of his subjects. He gets mixed up in all this chud shit after one of his homeless contacts gets arrested for trying to steal a cop’s gun for chud protection. She makes him her one phone call and now the cops want to know what his deal is.

Stern, in his baggy, sweat-soaked muscle shirt, makes a good no-bullshit working class hero. He spends his life helping people and risks it against monsters. And overall this has a theme of the working class and the poor objecting to getting screwed over by the power structure.

There are a few important character actors in bit parts. Check this out:

still_chud2
That’s right, that’s 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE‘s John Goodman (HOME OF PHOBIA) in a real early role, the one that came after REVENGE OF THE NERDS. Here’s a tougher one. Can you recognize this reporter on the TV?

still_chud
Well, neither did I. It looks like Michael Ironside or somebody but believe it or not it’s a thin, very different looking Jon Polito. You know him with a mustache and a rounder face, the bald, weasely guy in a bunch of Coen Brothers movies. MILLER’S CROSSING, BARTON FINK, THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE. In THE BIG LEBOWSKI he was the private eye in the Volkswagen Bug. The “fellow Brother Shamus.” He was in THE CROW. He was in HOMEWARD BOUND II with Greist and BUSHWHACKED with Stern and Curry.

There’s a vaguely Larry Cohen feel to this, though without the same kind of tight, propulsive storytelling. Unfortunately too much of this is serious people standing or sitting in offices having conversations about the situation. But the relationship issues faced by George and Lauren suggest a horror movie for grown ups. I like that when she brings up the idea of moving into her parents’ old house instead of selling it George blurts out “But that’s in the suburbs!”, thinking she’s forgotten that. So many movies promote the idea of cities as a dangerous place that you should want to get away from, especially if you’re starting a family. That would be natural for a movie about chuds, too. But here we have a guy who values the culture and lifestyle of urban living. And A.J. is someone who takes care of the poor and elderly, calls out the authorities on not helping, and risks his life going into the sewers to get people out before the city gases them along with the chuds. The city may be unforgiving, but the city dwellers do care about each other.

There’s a scene where Lauren is taking a shower and the drain is clogged, so she bends a coat hanger to try to unclog it and blood sprays all over her face. This woman is newly pregnant, having boyfriend troubles and questioning her future. And she’s naked in the shower and bends a coat hanger into a hook! I know it doesn’t seem like she’s decided to give herself an abortion, and it’s the ’80s, it’s not like she would have to do it that way. But to me it seemed like it had to be intended to bring the idea of abortion into your subconscious and worry about what’s going to happen to her unborn baby.

On the DVD commentary track though they just say “it’s an homage to Hitchcock” and there’s no hint that they thought about anything like that. The track is pretty good because it has Stern, Heard, Curry, director Douglas Cheek and writer Parnell Hall all together. They joke and get nostalgic but the actors don’t seem to remember very much about the movie and the filmatists don’t seem to understand what’s good about it. The director says that originally the chuds were going to be sick people, not monsters. Man, that woulda been a movie none of us ever saw before. They talk about the monsters looking bad, that the eyes are too big and bright, and there’s too much slime. They seem outraged by clearly the most interesting thing in the movie, the specific reason I rented it and the thing that I think most people would agree there’s not nearly enough of.

Hall is a mystery writer who only did this one movie. It’s Cheek’s only theatrical feature as a director too, but he’s worked more as an editor, including on lefty documentaries OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH’S WAR ON JOURNALISM and WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE. But if you met him what you should ask about is ALIEN AUTOPSY: FACT OR FICTION?

To be honest I didn’t think this one was that great. At first it seems like it has something, but other than the glowing eyes it doesn’t amount to much. Still, I might watch the sequel some time. On the commentary track they all wonder what it was about, they think maybe it was a parody like AIRPLANE! 2, but none of them ever saw it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 at 11:37 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “C.H.U.D.”

  1. I’m not too fond of it either. Bought it blind a few years ago, after being haunted by images of it in TV magazines when I was a kid and general popculture mentions, but it’s a snoozefest. (At least I only paid 3€ for the DVD.) I give it a bonus point for the creepy 80s atmosphere, but this is really one for the “Should be remade” bin.

  2. As far as unrelated horror-comedies go, Chud 2: Bud the Chud is no House 2: The Second Story.

  3. I remember seeing a little bit of C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (great title) on TV during the day a looooong time ago and thinking, ‘This seems alright.’ But then I bought a DVD set of cheap horror recently movies specifically because of it and I didn’t like it. I heard that it was written as a Return of the Living Dead sequel, which makes sense because C.H.U.D. seems like it needs to have a RotLD feel to work, but it doesn’t so it don’t. C.H.U.D. II kind of has the right feel, but still doesn’t work.

  4. You guys are crazy. This one might not be the wacky rubber monster splatterfest the poster promises, but it’s one of the few great New York horror movies, right up there with Q and MANIAC. That Larry Cohen feel comes from the classic New York blasé attitude toward perpetual weirdness. Sure, there’s cannibal monsters living in the sewer. Why wouldn’t there be? If that’s all it takes to make you lose your cool, you must be from out of town. New Yorkers remember when there used to be C.H.U.D.s on every corner And we liked it that way, back before The City sold its soul and went corporate.

    I don’t know, I guess I can see how if you’re not tuned into the vibe, you might be disappointed by the lack of monster mayhem. I think I was the first time I saw it. Now I mostly just like the atmosphere and the characters. I know these people. These are my people. I like to think this is how I’d handle a C.H.U.D. problem of one ever came up.

    One time I tried watching it while I had the flu, though. Don’t do that. All feverish and doped up, those C.H.U.D. eyes can glow a hole right through your sanity.

    I bought BUD THE CHUD on VHS from a milk crate in the back of a Polish laundromat three blocks from my first apartment in Greenpoint. It wasn’t good but I cherish the memory anyway.

  5. Republican Cloth Coat

    March 15th, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    This is a movie I will defend until the end of time. In part because of the wacked-out pacing problems, it feels real. Realer than Kojak. Vern is correct that the film makers were going for something else and less good. The chaotic production produced short cuts that didn’t make sense to the actors and crew, but it succeeds in spite of their best efforts to derail it.

  6. I can’t really recall too much from this one outside of the cameos and Daniel Stern looking like a Wolverine cosplayer. Still more memorable than the most memorable part of BUD THE CHUD. Which was that awful but oddly catchy self titled song that never stops playing throughout the movie.

  7. Douglas Cheek directed on the Vegetable Soup kids show. The segment Outerscope had puppets made from kid mannequin heads, but adult-sized hands at the end of their two-person Muppet-style arms. See Youtube and have nightmares.

  8. I prefer Chud 2. By a large margin. It’s FUN in a way this one is most decidedly not.

  9. Oh man, I always thought fondly of this movie since seeing it a million time on HBO, but now that I think about it, the only thing I remember is the shower scene, because it’s a shower scene. In fact, I was absolutely sure this one starred Michael Moriarty. Maybe I just thought it would have been better if it had Michael Moriarty. But that can be said about all movies. Great name, though.

    I couldn’t even make it halfway through CHUD 2.

  10. If they had got a more commercial director and writer, C.H.U.D. might have been the poor man’s Ghostbusters (see Back to the Future>Bill and Ted>My Science Project) and maybe prevented the Ninja Turtles.

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