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July 29, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #30 - C.H.U.D.

If you know both definitions of the acronym C.H.U.D., you're OK in my book. The DVD artwork gives away the one you need to know to enjoy this film - Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. It's one of the most sensational titles in the history of horror cinema, but it's also a bit misleading. That's not because the film doesn't have Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers...believe me, it does....it's because one would probably expect something very different from a film with that title.If you're like I was before I saw the film, you might expect a cheesy romp in which zombie-like creatures chow down on unsuspecting folks. You'd be right, to an extent. But I doubt you'd expect a film that takes its time setting up a human plot, introducing interesting characters, and plays the whole thing with a straight face. It sounds completely crazy, even to someone who's seen the movie half a dozen times. In the midst of the excessive eighties, C.H.U.D offers a focus on story and character that seems more like the horrors of the 1970s or the sci-fi monster flicks of the 1950s? Shocking, but mostly true.

There are some slips here and there - at one point a woman with a gun is pushed off screen and disappears from a scene that's set in a confined area - but the film, from director Douglas Cheek, has its head on straight as a horror film despite its ridiculous premise. It's easy to see the influence of city-bound horrors of the earlier part of this decade (Alligator and Wolfen come to mind) on the tone Cheek takes with his film.Within this serious tone, C.H.U.D. most definitely has some moments of monster movie brilliance. The creatures are wonderful, if not slightly bland, and that C.H.U.D. growl sound effect belongs in a monster hall of fame. The characters, led by future Home Alone stars John Heard and Daniel Stern, all buy in to the C.H.U.D. universe and sell what the film is offering without smirking. Manhunter's Kim Greist gets to offer some screams of terror that remind of the blondes-in-peril of the 1950s (and gets to wield a sword!), and there's even a shower scene that allows the movie to join the ranks of the best Psycho imitators. One scene even seems to have been directly lifted for James Cameron's Aliens two years later.

(Unrelated to the rest of my review, but it must me said: I tried my hardest to count how many times the name Bosch, which belongs to the police captain played by Christopher Curry, was spoken in this film. After about 50 minutes, I lost count around 25. Someday, I'll complete this goal. If you're into games which require someone to partake of something when something happens on screen, look no further than BOSCH.)I've still never gotten over how much I dig C.H.U.D. Its fusion of monster movie and social commentary, gritty modern setting, and intelligent, well-acted characters are one-of-a-kind. I know it seems ridiculous to say with a straight face, but if the cast and crew could do it, so can I. C.H.U.D. is a near perfect midnight movie treat.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

6 comments:

Morgan said...

C.H.U.D. is a classic! I remember showing this to a group of people a couple years ago and they were talking about it for days. Daniel Stern and John Heard were great too.

Fred [The Wolf] said...

C.H.U.D. is a great monster movie that brings back the fun of the 1950s B-movies. I actually did an article for Fangoria about this film a couple of months ago. Good times and great write up. They don't make them like this anymore.

Unholy moly said...

Chud is pure fun in a soup kitchen

Trick or Treat Pete said...

This film is too much fun to miss! Every time I see something for the Housing Authority(H.U.D.) I have to chuckle to myself and wonder if this is housing for the needy or cannibals...or maybe it's for needy cannibals, I don't know. They also call it Section 8 Housing, which in the military is a medical discharge for being mentally unfit. Soooooo...public housing is for mentally unfit, needy cannibals, which would be an oxymoron as anyone who is a cannibal would be mentally unfit.
Please now, lower your heads and join me in a moment of silence for the needs of the mentally unfit cannibals everywhere...
Dreaded Dreams
Petunia Scareum
btw, zombie + too much coffee= weird comments at 1:41am

Geof said...

A generally unappreciated classic and a nice review, Mike. You give it the praise it rightfully deserves. Shower scene and the "Aliens" scenes you mentioned were awesome.

The sequel? Well that's a whole other story.

The Mike said...

Thanks all! Glad to know I'm not a lone CHUDaholic!