A rash of bizarre murders in New York City seems to point to a group of grotesquely deformed vagrants living in the sewers. A courageous policeman, a photo journalist and his girlfriend, and a nutty bum, who seems to know a lot about the creatures, band together to try and determine what the creatures are and how to stop them.
Directed by: Douglas Cheek
. Starring: John Heard
, Daniel Stern
, Christopher Curry
, Kim Greist
, Laure Mattos
, Brenda Currin
, Justin Hall
, Michael O'Hare
, Cordis Heard
, Vic Polizos
, Eddie Jones
, Sam McMurray
, Frank Adu
. Music by: David A. Hughes
80's horror was largely the era of slasher films, serial killers, and zombie opuses, but we were also treated to some good old-fashioned monster movies like C.H.U.D. This offering certainly stood out then, and revisiting it today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it has aged very well.
There's nothing flashy about C.H.U.D., but that's perhaps the best thing about it. The film utilizes a great concept, some very nifty creatures, solid performances from everyone in the cast, and series of wholly believable plot developments to shape an entertaining flick that embraces its roots in the old-school creature feature canon.
The sewer system is a setting that hasn't been explored nearly enough in horror films, and C.H.U.D. makes the most of the labyrinthine locale by suggesting more than it shows. We never find out exactly how many creatures are lurking beneath the city, but we know that there is a distinct possibility that the few monsters we see throughout the course of the film are merely a sampling of the grotesque denizens that dwell in the subterranean metropolis our characters end up exploring.
I'm not actually suggesting that C.H.U.D.s are currently dwelling beneath our cities, but thanks to the fairly logical set-up, this isn't a scenario that becomes buried by implausibility. It's entirely feasible that hazardous waste would be abandoned in the sewers in lieu of a proper disposal, especially in the pre-global-warming-environmentalism-as-religion era in which the film takes place. Likewise, the subsequent cover-up that our villainous NRC official attempts throughout the course of the film fits the proposed idea of big business doing anything necessary to minimize their losses and avoid negative publicity. I don't think I'm being overly misanthropic if I suggest that very similar actions would be taken if something like the mutations in this film happened in real life.
The featuring of everymen as our central protagonists also works in the scope of the film. A decidedly un-badass photographer and soup kitchen volunteer thrown into these supernatural circumstances offer a heightened sense of urgency and danger, especially when we see what short work the C.H.U.D. make of the flame-thrower-wielding SWAT team who descend into the sewers at one point in the film. Though the movie could have easily become an Aliens-style shootout (which, subsequently, would have been a much more interesting approach for a sequel than the one we ended up getting), the action here remains as realistic as the scenario, and neither of our primary characters does anything that betrays the normalcy of their identities. Even the police Captain who joins the fray is doing so for personal reasons, and we end up viewing him primarily as a grieving husband instead of a valiant cop.
The film relies more on a well-constructed story than the gross-out elements to deliver the visceral end of things, but rest assured, there are still some nice bits of wet-work to be found. Severed limbs and bisected torsos pepper the proceedings, and since the effects don't drive the film, the bloodier bits here have excellent impact. On this front, the gore elements are very well executed, and we get plenty of glimpses of the titular creatures. Monsters are obviously a key component in a monster movie, and the C.H.U.D. are a relatively unique and gruesome breed. Though it's always obvious that we're watching actors in C.H.U.D. costumes, the make-up is excellent, and since our monsters are supposed to be mutated former humans, this approach serves the film well.
The ambiguous ending leaves things open for plenty of expansion, and it's a shame that C.H.U.D. wasn't successful enough to warrant a series of films. There was a sequel, but unfortunately it was skewed toward a comedic mindset that largely ignored the possibilities suggested by the events in this film. Many aspects of the C.H.U.D. themselves are only touched upon here. There is an indication that being bitten by a C.H.U.D. causes the victim to slowly metamorphosize into one, and one scene hints that they apparently have the ability to contort their bodies, but neither of these plot points are played out in any detail. It's a shame too, because when you consider how many awful horror sequels this era belched forth, it's hard to imagine that a proper C.H.U.D. follow-up in the right hands wouldn't have had some genuine merits (hell, even Ghoulies got a few sequels).
This isn't quite a classic, but it's certainly a very fun and well-crafted horror film that delivers the goods in every department.
Review by happyendingrocks from the Internet Movie Database.