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C.H.U.D. is another 80s flick that has earned a cult classic reputation and it is one that I actually saw in a theater back in 1984. One of the first films produced by New World Pictures after it was sold by Roger Corman, this monster flick tells the story of radioactive materials that are stored secretly by the government in the New York City sewer system that turns it’s underground homeless population into flesh eating monsters. As first the homeless and then more affluent citizens start to disappear… due to the creatures expanding their hunt for food… photographer Cooper (John Heard), street preacher Shepard (Daniel Stern) and police captain Bosch (Christopher Curry), whose wife is among the missing, are drawn together in an effort to battle the creatures and uncover and expose the conspiracy that created them.
If there is any main problem with this flick directed by Douglas Creek and written by Parnell Hall… from a story by Shepard Abbott… is that there is very little actual C.H.U.D. in a film called C.H.U.D. The filmmakers choose to focus instead on the drama between characters and the government conspiracy and cover-up than on the title creatures which appear very sporadically. Whether it was the restrictions from a fairly low budget or a writer and director trying to make more out of basically what is a simple monster movie, is not clear but, the flick definitely is scarce on delivering the monster goods and/or their carnage. There are lengthy and frankly dull dialogue sequences as the characters argue amongst each other or with slimy government bureaucrat Wilson (George Martin) and when the C.H.U.D. do appear, it’s briefly and most of their carnage happens off camera, such as a frustrating battle between the beasts and a squad of flame-thrower armed police that is seen for a few seconds on a video monitor and that’s it. We see bloody corpses long after the damage is done but, very little of the C.H.U.D. in action. It’s a shame because plot-wise this is a great B-Movie premise ripe for possibilities that chooses instead to focus on blandly written characters and cliche’ conspiracy situations than giving us the monster action the title and scenario promise. Cheek is not a skilled enough director to pull either the dialogue or monster scenes off well enough… though there are a few spooky scenes in the sewers…to make them really memorable and only the creatures’ cool design has helped them endure and earned them their rep. This is a movie that is a considered a classic more by nature of the potential of it’s plot than from it’s actual content. The film is shot well by cinematography Peter Stein and there is a cool electronic score by David A. Hughes, that reminded me of something that might accompany an Italian zombie movie. And, as stated, the monsters are pretty cool when they do appear which isn’t very often and the gore is well executed when seen. But, it’s not enough to make up for the minimal use of it’s title characters.
The cast are fairly dull, which doesn’t help. John Heard performs as if this was a paycheck job and it probably was. Stern overacts as the street preacher/soup kitchen manager but, it at least adds some life to the character. Curry is really bland as police Captain Bosch and Martin is a stereotypical government douche. At least Kim Greist adds a little sex appeal as Heard’s model wife but, her part is very small and she’s just there to become a damsel in distress in the last act. At least we get a small part by future star John Goodman as a cop in a diner that is besieged… again, off-camera… by the C.H.U.D.
Overall, despite it’s flaws I still find C.H.U.D. to be watchable but, even now it’s still a big disappointment considering the cool exploitation flick set-up. Had this been made when Corman ran New World Pictures, I’m sure we would have gotten the beasts, blood and gore we came for and probably got some boobs thrown in for good measure. The films’ creatures are cool despite their brief screen time and there are a few atmospheric scenes in the spooky sewers. But, sadly this is a monster film that chooses to focus more on it’s ho-hum drama than it’s cool critters… which makes me wonder why this is considered a classic and yet everyone picked on this year’s Godzilla for the same flaws…
2 and 1/2 CHUDs.