A soup kitchen chef, a photographer and a police officer pool their resources together in search of missing people underground New York City but come across a government coverup involving toxic waste and ugly, cannibalistic creatures.
Judging a Book by its Cover
–C.H.U.D. is such a great title. Ridiculous too, but still great. The 80s were such a great era for cheesy movies to live in.
-A horror version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, perhaps?
They’re not staying down there, anymore!
Directed by Douglas Cheek
Starring Daniel Stern, John Heard and Christopher Curry
The film follows three protagonists who all have reasons for going into New York City’s ugly sewer system. George, a photographer (Heard) who had done prior work on people who live underground and befriended one of them is brought down when one of their own got attacked. Meanwhile, AJ, a
dirty hippie soup kitchen worker (Stern) who serves the homeless and undergrounders gets Bosch, a police captain (Curry) involved when he notices that his flock is going missing. The captain also has a personal involvement in the disappearances as his wife is also among the missing but he’s constantly forced by his superior to quash any stories of disappearances because the government is hiding something, but it’s so much worse than they can imagine.
After finding equipment used to determine radiation levels, which spike quickly when they try it out, AJ and Bosch go to the mayor and complain about the disappearances and wondering why the government is sending people down there. Fighting with a nuclear regulatory spokesman, they eventually find out what the hell is down there: Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers! C.H.U.D.s are disgusting, slimy creatures with glowing eyes. As the acronym would suggest, they like to eat people and they come to realize that there is more food above ground. These things were apparently homeless people who came in contact with the toxic waste that’s being held in the sewers. The government was denied moving the stuff through the sewers but they went and did it anyway but legally have to now wait to move the crap out which has made matters so much more worse.
The story sounds so much more epic on paper but it takes a long time before the movie gets really interesting, which is of course the last act of the film. Prior to that, there’s a lot talk and banter that got on my nerves after a while. AJ is the type who wants to poke holes in government issues and rip them wide open; everything is a conspiracy to him and he certainly goes to town when he’s finally right but he’s annoying. Bosch is his foil though the police captain is the most interesting character of the bunch. George’s storyline is a little on the bland side because he’s barely involved with anything but he feels the need to dig deeper into the sewers even though he has a hot model girlfriend who’s pregnant at home.
I suppose my biggest issue with C.H.U.D. is the title creatures themselves. Even in the early scenes, which only offer brief glimpses and close ups of the monsters, they don’t look that great featuring masks with limited movement. The glowing eyes are more than silly and there’s even a scene where a CHUD only has one eye lit up. The gore effects, on the other hand, are really good! Most of the kills are off screen though it’s the ghoulish aftermaths that’s surprisingly gruesome.
C.H.U.D. wasn’t as bad as I remembered but it didn’t win me over in the end either. A strong final act makes the film passable enough to watch though there’s a lot of long lulls where not much happens until the next CHUD sighting. The creature effects are one of the weaker points and in this type of movie that really knocks the film down a few pegs. If you have a love of 80s horror films, you may get some enjoyment out of the Dwellers but everyone else should probably pass them up.
Story: 6 – Toxic waste has deformed the unfortunate homeless of NYC and they turn into cannibalistic creatures who rise up from the sewers to snack on people. Only a motley trio of a soup kitchen chef, a photographer and a police captain can stop them!
Blood: 6 – Several CHUD-munched cadavers look particularly gruesome but the creature effects are hilariously lacking most of the time.
Nudity: 0 – A shower scene with nothing but close ups is the closest you’ll get to see anything. The CHUDs don’t wear clothes though so there’s that.
Overall: 5 – The film does manage to get better as it goes along but the talky script and lame creatures really limit the fun on this one. Where’s the remake on this?
-Stars Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry disliked the script so much they allegedly rewrote half of it but didn’t take credit.
-Stern and John Heard would go on to work together again in the Home Alone movies.
-John Goodman has a brief cameo as a police officer.