Saturday, October 5, 2013


31 Days  of Horror: Day 5
Have you seen C.H.U.D.?  Have you?  I remember getting excited for this one the very moment my friend explained the acronym: Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.  Of course I want to watch a movie about C.H.U.D.s!  Of course I want to discuss C.H.U.D.s!  Who wouldn't?
C.H.U.D. begins the way you always knew, deep in your heart, that it had to begin: with a high-end photographer getting edgy, socially important photos from the safety of his apartment.  Cooper () is tired of taking fancy, well-paying fashion gigs, because professional photographers hate receiving monetary compensation out of proportion to the work they do.  Cooper wants to track down some homeless people he photographed last year, but he can't track them down --- and he's looked everywhere in his apartment.
I'm saying you're an unsympathetic dick, dick.
Meanwhile, Police Captain Bosch () is in charge of the worst police precinct in the world.  That's not a plot point, it is just a conclusion I have reached from the fact that every police officer we see in this movie is either lazy, stupid, or a complete asshat.
...or all three
Captain Bosch is hushing up a series of missing persons cases, but one of them also happens to be his wife.  That's right, Bosch is covering up disappearances that are similar to his wife's.  No, he (probably) did not murder his wife.  Even more meanwhile, there is a savvy crime beat reporter who asks the police clever questions, like "What's going on, Bosch?"  The man is clearly driven to uncover an important story.  Beyond meanwhile, over in Meanwhileington, a filthy, greasy ex-con (Daniel Stern), who is running a soup kitchen for the homeless, decides to report some of his regulars as missing persons.
"You forgot to describe me as 'probably contagious'"
How are these seemingly disparate plot threads united?  By C.H.U.D.s, of course.  It turns out that Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers are eating (hint: cannibalistic) people, especially those who wander too close to the sewers.  Or, in the case of some of the homeless, those that choose to live in the sewers.
"Sure beats the coal mine we must have just emerged from"
But what does a C.H.U.D. look like?  C.H.U.D.-ish?  C.H.U.D.-derly?  C.H.U.D.-tastic?  All good guesses, and none of them are wrong.  Specifically, though, they look like this:
Now, all we need to know is what is causing these C.H.U.D.s to C.H.U.D. (yes, C.H.U.D. is a noun and a verb), and why the government is covering up our hot C.H.U.D. on C.H.U.D. action! their existence!

Let's talk about the acting in C.H.U.D., shall we?  There are some decent actors in this movie, after all.  Jon Polito, John Goodman, and (to a far lesser extent) Jay Thomas all make early career appearances, but they are extremely bit parts. 
Above: John Goodman, moments before the only time something in a movie ate him
The top-billed actor is actually John Heard.  I don't know why that is, since he is the whiniest character in the film and does the least good.  For my money, it is Daniel Stern's turn as AJ that deserved the limelight.  Not only is he the most reasonable character in the movie --- not counting his grooming habits, obviously --- but he has his own name, AJ, tattooed on his arm.
There aren't many good shots of it, but here's a cropped version:
That's right.  Not only does he have his own name as a prison tattoo, but it has lines coming out from it, like it's shining bright!  I don't know who thought of that, or what it means, but I fucking love it!  As far as his acting goes, Stern was competent in a movie full of awkward dialogue.  Christopher Curry was pretty terrible as Bosch, but he rocks a pretty nice cop 'stache.  I don't understand the early 80s and the insistence on giving Kim Greist work, but this is yet another movie that casts her as a supposedly beautiful and interesting love interest for the lead.  I haven't seen it work yet, but at least I did get to see her sprayed with blood this time.
With that vacant expression, this looks more like hazing than horror
Rounding out the notable cast, Sam McMurray did what he does best --- he played an unsympathetic asshole, and he did it perfectly.

C.H.U.D. is the only movie Douglas Cheek ever directed.  He apparently got the gig thanks to Daniel Stern and John Heard stumping for him.  Whatever the cause, he didn't do a very good job.  It's certainly not entirely his fault, but there isn't a single well-assembled scene in this movie.  There is no suspense or terror or horror.  Of course, this is a movie about Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, so it's probably pretty stupid.  But that doesn't explain why my favorite scene in the entire film is this one:
AJ is being tailed by Alligator Shirt.  AJ stops to make a call on a payphone.  Alligator Shirt hangs up the phone before AJ can dial (it was a close tail), grabs the change, and then eats it.  And then they just look at each other.  Not a word has been said during this entire exchange.
I couldn't stop laughing.  I actually rewound that part to make sure it really happened.  Stern's puzzled look, paired with the blank smugness of Alligator Shirt was so beautifully awkward.  I can guarantee that Cheek had something other than abject hilarity in mind when he filmed that scene.  But it is really fair to lay all the blame on the director?  After all, somebody wrote a script for this.
According to CHUDFacts (which is an interesting, if sad, read), large chunks of the movie were ad-libbed or rewritten by Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry (IMDb even lists them as uncredited writers).  Given how it turned out, I wonder if this was anything like Sam Jackson signing on for Snakes on a Plane?
"We signed on to make a movie about Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, dammit!"
Whatever the reasoning or background, this is a pretty dumb script, and the main source of entertainment is from the fact that there are things called C.H.U.D.s in the movie.

This is a horror movie, though, and C.H.U.D. does have "cannibalistic" creatures in good is this movie by horror standards?  First of all, I am curious as to what makes these creatures cannibals.  We don't see C.H.U.D.s eating other C.H.U.D.s, we see them eating people; sure, we later learn that C.H.U.D.s are mutated people (who somehow all mutate the same way), but doesn't the description of them as "humanoid" kind of negate the cannibalism?  Am I being too nitpicky? 
Considering that I am not questioning them sharing the same wardrobe, the answer is "yes"
Anyway, while the title promises a fun horror experience for genre fans, there isn't much in the actual film itself.  If you are a fan of gore, there is one shot of a wounded leg, blood spattering out of a shower drain, and a C.H.U.D. head gets sliced off with a sword (that was conveniently in an apartment).  If you are into special effects, there still isn't much.  The C.H.U.D. costumes are quite obviously just gloves and masks, so very little of them are show on-camera.  For instance, this is the only unobscured shot of the C.H.U.D.s that ate John Goodman:
It's not bad, but if you have the C.H.U.D.s attacking a well-lit diner, we should see a little more.  The only way a film can get away without showing much of its monsters is if it does a great job setting a tone of suspense; it also helps if the story provides a lot of darkness and shadows.  This movie does neither.  So, gore and special effects are underwhelming...what about sex and violence?  Strikes three and four.  Little of either to be seen, and if there was some, it would probably be pretty comical.


I truly believe C.H.U.D. is worth watching.  Is it dumb?  Yes.  Is it poorly made?  Unapologetically so. Is it a little slow getting to the C.H.U.D.s?  Definitely.  Despite all that, I think this movie is a pretty fun watch.  I might not recommend watching it alone and/or sober, but I think there is something lovably goofy at the core of this concept.  (Hint: that "something" is the acronym C.H.U.D.)

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