“What’re you, kidding? Your man has a camera – mine has a flamethrower!”
The Scoop: 1984 R, directed by Douglas Cheek and starring John Heard, Christopher Curry and Daniel Stern
Tagline: They’re not staying down there anymore!
Summary Capsule: Toxic waste dumped in New York sewers turns people into mutant monsters instead of mutant turtles.
Drew’s Rating: And that’s when the Chuds got me…
Drew’s Review: As any cult movie fan worth his salt or paprika or whatever knows, one of the bestest reasons to watch cult films is to play the “What were they in first?” game with today’s stars. You think anyone but Kyle would watch the original Friday the 13th if Kevin “I worked on something with everyone” Bacon weren’t in it? Think again, spanky! And if my fan mail is any indication, there’s one name that’s on everyone’s minds. “Dear Drew,” the typical letter reads, “you seem slightly more intelligent than your pictures would indicate, so perhaps you can help me. I’ve had a non-medical burning in my loins for Daniel Stern ever since I saw him get beat up by a nauseatingly precocious 10-year-old, and I was wondering: has he ever been in more, ah, ‘adult’ fare?” Well, dear readers, are you ever in luck, because today we’re taking a look at: C.H.U.D.!
Now, C.H.U.D. is kind of a hard movie to classify — it’s technically a horror film, but it really ain’t that scary and there’s surprisingly little blood. (Well, for the first 80% anyway; we do eventually see some gnawed carcasses.) The plot’s pretty basic: several individuals, including a photographer (John Heard), a police captain (Christopher Curry), and a soup kitchen server named A.J. (Stern), are investigating mysterious disappearances among NYC’s homeless population. Working alone and eventually together, they learn of a government cover-up involving toxic waste that’s turning people into Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers… or “Chuds” for short. Bad enough by itself, but the Chuds are hungry and starting to venture up to the surface more frequently, and they’re nearly twice as dangerous as your average New York cab ride. Clearly something has to be done… but what? And will it be environmentally friendly?
So it took a while, but I finally managed to categorize C.H.U.D. — it’s actually a throwback to 50’s sci-fi movies, updated with 80’s horror trappings. (The tip-off was when the unsavory government stooge refers to A.J.’s warnings as “the lunatic ravings of this paranoid hippie.”) Which is kinda cool when you think about it. Those movies were always filled with a raving young man desperately trying to convince the police of the truth while they laughed at him; only now, instead of some punk kid, we get a man who’s destined to have Billy Crystal try to suck poison out of his ass. YES! And taken in that context, the film suddenly changes from “so-so horror movie” to “intentionally campy cult classic.” It’s a subtle distinction, but a very important one in regard to your potential enjoyment. More on that in a bit.
Really my biggest qualm is with the ending. Because, well, there isn’t one. It’s like the director just figured he’d killed off the evil government guy and gotten all the surviving characters together — movie over. Which is fine, but maybe we could’ve gotten, I don’t know, some resolution as to what happened to the Chuds? Most horror films either have A) the monster/villain being dispatched in a very final manner [until the sequel], or B) some hint that he/she/it has survived to kill again. Sometimes both. C.H.U.D., however, has neither; it’s more like, “Hey, just assume all the creatures died, even though those 2 human guys made it out fine. Okay?” Sloppy, and with a movie like this, they clearly weren’t guaranteed a sequel, so there’s no excuse for it.
Anyway, the question lingers — is it any good? Well, that all depends on what you’re looking for. What C.H.U.D. really does best is stick to the established formula. If there’s a cute, audience-endearing little girl and her elderly grandfather in a phone booth, which one’s gonna end up Chud chow? Likewise, a pregnant woman is usually safe unless it’s a REALLY hardcore flick… which this most definitely is not. So if you’re searching for a creative, groundbreaking thriller with amazing special effects, keep looking. But if you take comfort in the old classics and like the familiarity of a schlocky horror flick with minimalist costumes, stereotypical characters, and not too many scares, give C.H.U.D. a try. You and your friends could do a lot worse in terms of movies to make fun of some cold, dark October evening. And isn’t that what horror films are really all about?
- How closely some scenes mirror Gremlins? (Woman trapped in home by monsters, decorative sword used to dispatch one, authorities not taking hero seriously, etc.) Both flicks came out in 1984, so it’s doubtful either intentionally copied the other.
- That’s gotta be the least-frightening horror movie opening EVER.
- It’s pretty hilarious how concerned A.J. gets when his flashlight breaks. Dan, it’s gonna be okay, buddy- I haven’t seen a sewer that will lit since the Ninja Turtles.
- Yes, that is John Goodman in a cameo as one of the cops in the diner.
- Dude, if you’re gonna pick a quarter out of an NYC pay phone slot, do NOT put it in your mouth!
- If ever there was a job for Captain Planet, this has gotta be it…
- What kind of police officer knocks out a bad guy and takes his keys, but leaves the gun with him? Nice one, Deputy Dawg.
- Okay, the shower scene’s kinda cool, but where’s all that blood coming from, anyway?
- It might just be me, but I really dig seeing all these serious actors saying “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers” with straight faces. I’d love to see the outtake reel sometime – I guarantee you 2/3rds of it is people cracking up midway through the name.
- The movie was successful enough to spawn a sort-of sequel in 1989, C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the Chud. Instead of taking the time to develop a new story about, y’know, Chuds, they just took a rejected zombie spoof and slapped the C.H.U.D. name on it. Weird, and apparently pretty bad, it continues the proud horror movie tradition of drastically changing the monsters’ look and weakness in between films.
- Early scripts for X-Men 3 are rumored to include an all-out battle between the Morlocks (sewer-dwelling mutants) and the Chuds. Also, I just completely made that up. But wouldn’t that be AWESOME?
Lauren: Dr. Brimnir called this afternoon. It’s official: I’m pregnant.
Cooper: You’re gonna have a baby?!
Lauren: That IS one of the side effects of being pregnant.
A.J.: How does this tie in with the people that are missing?
Chief O’Brien: Well now, uh-
A.J.: I’m not talkin’ to you, I’m talkin’ to him.
O’Brien: Well there’s no cause to be insolent here-
A.J.: Eat it!
Wilson: Benson! Get those cops out of there!
Bosch: What’re you, kidding? Your man has a camera – mine has a flamethrower!
Cooper: What the hell you doin’ with a gun?
Reporter: You said Victor knows something. If Victor wants a gun, I want a gun!
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