What do the letters C.H.U.D., when placed in that comical-sounding order (no-one can say the word "chud" without giggling a little bit), stand for exactly? That's easy, they stand for "Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers." Next question. Really? Yeah, they're just a bunch of drug-addicted derelicts running around the vast network of underground tunnels that snake through the bowels of New York City. Sure, they occasionally like to eat human flesh (hence the word "cannibalistic"), but they mostly consume their fellow derelicts. In other words, they don't eat "real people." You know what? I'm not buying that. And you wanna know who else isn't buying that? I know I'm going to regret asking this, but who? I'll tell you who. Do you see that crazed-looking individual standing over there? You're going to have to be more specific. After all, this is New York City: If you ain't crazed-looking, you ain't from around here. Okay, see that dishevelled guy in the stained t-shirt? The tall, lanky fella? Yeah, him. What about 'em? His name is Daniel Stern and he's not buying any of your bullshit. Oh, he isn't, eh? Why the hell not? According to Daniel Stern, who, in actuality, is playing a character named A.J. Shepherd, a.k.a. "The Reverend," this whole thing about homeless cannibals running amok in the sewers is all a part of an elaborate cover-up, a smoke-screen, a ruse, a vast conspiracy, if you will. No, there's something sinister afoot. And the only people who seem to care enough to expose the truth are a fashion photographer, a model, a guy who runs a soup kitchen, and a police captain.
If you think that's an odd group of people, wait until Graham Beckel starts waving his big knife around in a soup kitchen setting. Wait a second, Graham Beckel. Why does that name sound familiar? He played Winona Ryder's dad in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, one of the most unfairly overlooked entries in Winona Ryder's teen angst filmography. That was him? Yeah, yeah, that was him. He looked so different. Well, that's because he's playing a mentally-ill homeless man living on the mean streets of New York, not a Clyde, Ohio carpet salesman. It's called acting.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. The motley crew assembled to uncover to the conspiracy at the centre of C.H.U.D., a surprisingly intelligent eco-horror flick, will stop at nothing to prevent their beloved city from becoming overrun with radioactive sewer monsters. Actually, A.J. (Daniel Stern), the soup kitchen guy, and Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry), the police captain guy, have the most the lose if these subterranean creatures start popping up topside.
They're not coming up yet, but they will be soon. In the meantime, stay clear of manhole covers. Telling New Yorkers to stay clear of manhole covers is like telling sophisticated Ukrainian milfs to stay clear of borscht. In other words, it's not going to happen. Besides, no-one is telling them to stay clear of manholes. They should be, but they're not.
Unfortunately, "they" don't even know what they're dealing with. And neither does the woman (Laure Mattos) seen walking her dog late at night during the film's opening scene, as she is pulled into a manhole by an unseen entity. Judging the dermatological makeup of the hands that grabbed her, I'd say the chances that she survived the ordeal with all her body parts in tact are pretty slim.
Speaking of dermatological makeup, oh, to be a pimple on Kim Greist's ass. What?!? She mentions that she has a pimple on her ass. What did you expect me to think? At any rate, Kim's introduction to the C.H.U.D. universe is pretty memorable. Wearing a pair of pink and white panties with a short-sleeved orange turtleneck sweater with white sleeves, and a black belt, Kim Greist plays Lauren Daniels, a fashion model, who lives with her fashion photographer boyfriend, George Cooper (John Heard); though, I should say, "former fashion photographer," as he seems to be making the transition from snapping fashion pics to taking more arty shots.
Unable to resist the twinkling eyes peering out from underneath her frizzy blonde bob, George agrees to take some fashion pics of Lauren for a perfume ad.
Lounging in a leggy manner is a good look for Kim Greist, as it brings out the aforementioned twinkle in her eyes.
Meanwhile, down at the 33rd Precinct, Captain Bosch is trying to understand why a bag lady (Ruth Maleczech) tried to steal the gun from one his officers. (The officer, by the way, is played by none other than Sam McMurray. Also, keep an eye out for John Goodman and Jay Thomas, they play police officers as well.)
Why is a police captain so interested in this bag lady? I don't know, it seems beneath him. Sure, attempting to steal a police officers gun is a serious offense, but I don't think it warrants the attention of a police captain. No, I think something fishy is going on. It gets even fishier when Captain Bosch heads down to the local soup kitchen to respond to a missing persons report made A.J., the guy who runs the joint. We soon learn why Bosch is so concerned about a bunch of homeless people (mostly "undergrounders," called so because they live primarily underground) have gone missing over the past couple of weeks.
The indifference displayed by Bosch's superiors surrounding the disappearance of the so many undergrounders reminded me of the indifference that greeted the AIDS epidemic in early-to-mid 1980s. Now, whether that was the film's intention is debatable. But it should be noted that Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry, who are great together (the former uses the expression, "This Ain't No Disco" at one point - a blatant Talking Heads reference, if I've ever heard one), re-wrote much of the script themselves.
You can clearly see the influence of their rewrites in the scenes where Daniel and Christopher are trying to get expose the government's, or more specifically, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or N.R.C.'s, wrongdoings. The highlight being when Bosch and A.J. bring their evidence to a meeting with the chief of police, the mayor, and the head of the N.R.C. (played by the always evil George Martin). In fact, this particular scene is Daniel Stern's shining moment, as he gives good paranoid hippie (only, his paranoia is completely justified).
Another instance where their rewrites are obvious was the scene where Lauren tells George she's pregnant. I liked how they used the word "alternative" instead of abortion when discussing their plans for the future.
I'm not complaining, but I started to wonder when this movie was going to start living up to its name. I mean, it's called C.H.U.D., "Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers," not C.H.U.D., "Caring Human Urban Drama."
Which reminds me, out of all the movies to do a reference to A Chud Convention, the obscure one-off side project between Belgium's à;GRUMH... and Canada's Skinny Puppy, it should have been this one. Why can't you reference A Chud Convention in as many movie reviews as you want? I don't know. I guess don't want to overplay my A Chud Convention card. At any rate, the reason to allude to A Chud Convention in a movie review for C.H.U.D. actually goes beyond the fact that they both use the word "chud." Are you sitting down? There's a C.H.U.D. convention in C.H.U.D. No, really. Daniel Stern stumbles across a bunch of C.H.U.D.'s convening together in what could be construed as a convention. Did it ever occur to you that the members à;GRUMH... and Skinny Puppy named their side project "A Chud Convention" after watching the C.H.U.D. convention scene in C.H.U.D.? After all, Skinny Puppy are famous for their love of horror movies.
Judging by the frazzled look on your face, I'll take it that I just blew your mind a little bit. If you really want to repair damage I caused, you should try to imagine Kim Greist lounging in a leggy manner in Central Park. Even though I'm mentally unsound, I find it to be the best remedy for curing a blown mind.
Did you know that film's amazing synth score was composed by Martin Cooper of OMD fame? It's true. And it reminded me of the Liquid Sky score on several occasions.
As the glow-eyed creatures start to emerge for their subterranean lair, C.H.U.D. becomes more of a conventional horror film. Again, I'm not complaining. It's just that you can totally tell that producers probably insisted that there be, to quote The Simpsons (who reference C.H.U.D. like it were a bodily function), less chat and more splat. And we get it, more splat, that is, when Kim Greist goes mano-a-mano with a C.H.U.D. in her apartment. A cautionary tale about the dangers that can arise when one cut corners when storing radioactive waste (radioaktivität), while, at the same time, yet another entertaining New York City set horror film, C.H.U.D. isn't as dumb as its name would suggest.
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