C.H.U.D. (1984)
By: Mr Intolerance on October 31, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Anchor Bay (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.77:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 1.0. 96 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Douglas Cheek
Starring: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry
Screenplay: Shepard Abbott
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
C.H.U.D. Or, if you prefer, Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. And they're on the way towards us from the very word go. This is one of those films I saw as a teenager which really struck a chord with me. It's dumb, sure. It's played out like a 1950s horror film, definitely, But it still remains one of the 80s most entertaining films.

George (John Heard) is a photographer, his girlfriend, Lauren (Kim Greist), is a model. George likes to take photos of the homeless, maybe thinking it'll allow him to be taken seriously as an artist, and hopefully make it big doing something more credible than the fashion photography he left behind. Detective Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry) has problems, too, thinking he's being given a shit-load of bum cases with no future, rather than actual crimes he'll be able to solve – and his wife has disappeared, too. Reverend Shepherd (Daniel Stern) is losing part of his flock from the soup kitchen for the homeless he's running. He thinks it's a big business/government scam, and while we initially dismiss him as a conspiracy theory loonie, there's more to this scruffy hippy than meets the eye. Bosch is clever enough to not dismiss him out of hand at once. This should be enough for the audience to start working things out for themselves…

Bosch, Shepherd and George will soon be drawn together via these very homeless folk who have gone missing. Bosch and Shepherd very soon work out there's something nasty in the sewers. Something that's taking out those who can't take care of themselves. Or in fact, anyone stupid enough to be out late and alone. It's not just the homeless who are getting chomped, let me tell you.

Basically, the city fathers of New York – specifically the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (embodied in the oily form of Commissioner Wilson, who is obviously pulling the strings here) - don't  want anyone to know about the fact that they're pouring nuclear waste down the drains of the city, or what might be being created down there, because what they're making are…rather unfriendly to say the least. I love the fact that the screenwriters have fallen back on the idea of the nuclear boogeyman being the catalyst for the genesis of the C.H.U.D.s – is there nothing toxic waste can't do? But in the context of the movie, it makes total sense. So, 50s fear and distrust of the evils of atomic power meets 80s fear and mistrust of authority, with a fair degree of success I might add. 

It soon becomes apparent that indeed C.H.U.D.s are responsible for the mayhem and the carnage, but the boys in charge won't have anything to do with it. Bosch's superiors won't have a bar of it – monsters in the sewers? Rubbish. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission aren't listening either, despite the fact that they are obviously an interested party – we've seen a lot of their fellas around town, after all. A complete abrogation of responsibility is the order of the day. This of course doesn't change anything – a head-in-the-sand approach will not prevent you from getting your arse kicked, after all. If anything, it invites it.

When the big business types take over, they decide to send a photographer down into the sewers to take some happy-snaps of the C.H.U.D.s as evidence (in other words, wanting proof that Shepherd and Bosch have already had in spades), Bosch's response is to send along some cops down into the sewers with flamethrowers – Them-style. When the fat cats complain about danger and his over-reaction to what they see as only a potential threat, he quite reasonably comes back with, "What, are you kidding? Your man has a camera. Mine has a flamethrower." That's logic you can't argue with. Let's face facts here fellas, if you're going up against a cannibalistic radioactive monster in the dark, you want a flamethrower. But sometimes even the goodness of a flamethrower isn't even enough. So what do you do?

If you're Wilson, you flood the sewers with gas (especially if our heroes are down there – the perfect cover-up. Cover-up, you ask? Cover up for what? Watch the movie). Not the smartest of ideas, as it's more than likely to force the C.H.U.D.S to the surface in order to escape it– as well as the gas, potentially becoming harmful, if not lethal, to the populace at large. But that's those authority types for you… And that 80s mindset I was mentioning before, on the part of the film-makers. George rather stupidly goes down into the sewers with this sleazy, scum-sucking newsie, Murphy (we generally speaking don't like or trust media types – how often do we see sympathetic representations of newscasters and reporters on screen?), who has a bit of an encounter with the C.H.U.D.S (who have been admirably kept off-screen by the director for over an hour by this point, which makes them seem a hell of a lot more threatening), and we know that things are going from bad to worse. The C.H.U.D.S. are becoming more alert and awake to the desires and nefarious plans of the workaday world, and so our little visits to their kingdom are received even less cordially than before.

The C.H.U.D.S begin to make their presence felt above ground (let's face facts – their underground menu is pretty empty, having eaten their way through much of the homeless population of New York – they have to find something to eat), and things go bad for all and sundry. And so we wheel into the final reel, and so I stop narrating. Watch this film and become a better person, C.H.U.D. is awesomeness in video form.

Gotta say, this is definitely Daniel Stern's best role – he is the fucking bomb as Shepherd. Although the symbolism of his name was a little much – he's a reverend; the screenwriters seem to be wanting to emphasise it via the Christian thing. Actually, ditto with Bosch – I'm assuming that he's named for Hieronymus Bosch, who also had a metaphoric glimpse into a hell peopled with horrible monsters. Seriously though, Stern's very fucking good, and steals every scene he's in, with his bug-eyed, mop-haired positively wired performance – which was a real surprise given the terrible films he went on to do. And look out for an early (and very minor bit-part) role by John Goodman, if you're a star-spotter. As a matter of fact, if you are a star-spotting type of person – keep your eyes peeled for the duration, you will see (albeit briefly) a LOT of familiar faces, before they were stars. 

The only negative about this film? It suffered the indignity of having a sequel so awful it actually tarnished my feelings about the original for years after I saw it – C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the C.H.U.D. Avoid it at all costs.
Video
Serviceable but not brilliant. It's not quite the OAR, which was 1.85:1 according to imdb.com, for what that's worth – this is in 1.77:1, but the picture quality isn't wunderbar. A sporadically soft picture, and even at its best, it's hardly razor sharp. Every other review I've read of this release goes absofuckinglutely apeshit over the transfer – maybe there's something wrong with my eyes?
Audio
The audio track is not much better than the video track – a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, and a rather flat one, at that. I was certainly expecting better – it would appear that the restoration job was not handled by Anchor Bay's A-team.
Extra Features
Very little, which is annoying considering how much cache this film has accrued over the years. There's the original trailer, a commentary track, a behind-the-scenes still gallery and that's it. This is a bit ordinary, in my opinion. Mind you, the commentary track is pretty worthwhile, as cast and crew have a fair bit of fun affectionately taking the piss out of the film.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
If you haven't seen C.H.U.D, rectify this situation immediately. This is a film you must see, just like Humanoids from the Deep, Q – The Winged Serpent, Xtro, Parasite or Night of the Creeps. Like those films, it might seem a little bit kitsch today, bordering on the camp, but like all the best creature features it's played deadly straight. The only laughs you'll get here will be affectionately nostalgic ones if you've seen it before, and knowing smiles at the frequent tips of the hat to the genre it represents. This is about as complete a version as you're going to find, including all of the footage added to the TV version – and look out for the Easter Egg if you want to see boobs!

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