Friday, June 11, 2010

"C.H.U.D."(1984)d/Douglas Cheek

Tonight we lift the manhole cover on Doug Cheek's wickedly original cult classic about toxic stumblebums under the streets of Manhattan with a penchant for human flesh.I saw this on a doublebill with Romero's Day of the Dead at the drive in way back when I was rocking the Chachi hairdo and frag-stache,and driving a mint 1970 Mercury Cougar XR7 with a 351 four barrel Cleveland engine under the hood.I used to open her up on Route 29 like Doc did with wrapping paper over toys on Christmas morning.That's saying something,really.From minute one I could appreciate the effort taken on tonight's entry,the many solid performances from a game cast that included Daniel Stern,John Heard,and early work by John Goodman,Patricia Richardson,and Jay Thomas,who some of you exquisitely aged motherfuckers might remember as Carla's hockey playing boyfriend,Eddie on Cheers,and even an uncredited turn from porn queen Kelly Nichols(who those of you with a taste for such fare will remember as one of Seka's fleshettes in 1980's Ultra Flesh) as a terrified extra.John Caglione,Jr.(another Italian,big surprise) pairs up with Ed French to serve up the excellent effects showcased within,from the effective gore pieces(French) to the unique creature design(Caglione).Cheek thankfully avoids a tongue-in-cheek(figuratively speaking,I'd imagine) approach to the subject matter,somehow basting everything in front of his lens with that unmistakable Manhattan grit that you couldn't avoid in the city back then.Its hard not to sweat right along with the grimy characters on board,and we're not just talking the winos and squeegee bums,either.Anyway,what a drive in double bill,huh?I don't even remember taking the obligatory carload of slappers that time,'cuz after all,with rad horror on the menu,who needs clumsy teenaged backseat head?
See what too many bricks of that eighties handout cheese does to your complexion?
A woman taking her poodle for walkies late at night in Manhattan is pulled into a manhole by inhuman claws,becoming the latest in a long line of disappearances throughout the city.George Cooper(Heard),otherwise known as Pretentious Pete in photography circles,has a cushy gig snapping fashion photos,but he'd much rather take pictures of homeless scuzzbag dirt merchants...because,you know,they're more real,maaaan.How Bono of you,Cooper.He gets called down to the tombs when one of his regular photogenic hobos gets pinched for trying to steal an officer's piece.Humanitarian he is,he cancels his fashion shoot with his live-in gal pal,Lauren(Kim Griest),to go underground with his bag lady pal,who shows him one of the sleazy undergrounders with a nasty bite taken out of his leg.T'was the "ugly fuckers" what done it.Meanwhile Bosch(Christopher Curry),the police captain,not Hieronymus,visits
his buddy "The Reverend"(Stern),a soup kitchen chef,whose regular undergrounder chowhound crowd has all but completely vanished.Bosch acknowledges that if he had two shits,he probably wouldn't give either of them,but for one of the missing people happening to be his wife.The good Rev then tells the captain that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been fart-arsin' about in the sewers for nearly a month,and produces one of their radiation detectors among other interesting curios he finds below the streets.The two men take their findings to Bosch's superiors who answer to NRC head Wilson(George Martin),who balks and tries to cover it all up,until his men in the sewers find a dead C.H.U.D.,or cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller,as he explains to the two would be-detectives.A far cry from the S.H.U.F.'s,or smelly homeless underground fellers one would usually encounter down there.
Look at the bright side,buddy,now you can downsize to that microwave box you always wanted.
It seems these monsters were once human beings,radioactively mutated by toxic waste,and as their food supply,other homeless people,ran out,they began coming to the surface to feed,but Wilson has bigger,darker secrets than C.H.U.D.s to protect from going public.C.H.U.D. actually stands for contamination hazard urban disposal,and Wilson,cutting through bureaucratic red tape that will not allow him to transport the nucelar waste through the city,he's been hiding and storing it in abandoned subway tunnels anyway,for profit.One of Wilson's thugs locks the Rev in an access tunnel,and after a reporter gets chomped by C.H.U.D.s,George finds himself trapped under the street with the volunteer cook,while a hungry C.H.U.D. makes its way into Lauren's apartment as she's showering.At this point the murderous mutant's neck stretches like some hideous parody of the Yupyupyupyup Alien muppet from Sesame Street,and Lauren abruptly lops its head off.What the hell was the long neck for?Bosch squares off against Wilson,who plans to asphyxiate the monsters by flooding the subway with gas,conveniently parking over the manhole cover that George and the Rev need to escape out of,but the unscrupulous government worker plugs the cop with bullets in the process.The Rev gets a hold of Bosch's piece and shoots Wilson,and everyone worth saving makes out alright,until two beat cops at a diner are suprised mid-donut by a gaggle of multiple C.H.U.D.s who got out of the sewer before they could be eradicated.Unless,you happen to be watching the Anchor Bay dvd,which at the postulation of Cheek,re-arranges the cops at the diner scene towards the middle of the movie,and gives the film a happy closure instead.Bah,I prefer the bummer ending,as always.
What purpose does the stretch-neckin' serve,exactly?We may never know.
The Reverend character was originally going to be played by Robert "My fifteen minutes lasted decades" Englund,who had to decline so that he could play Freddy Krueger again.Curry and Stern re-wrote the original screenplay to the tune of something like fifty percent worth,including the entire Reverend character and the alternate C.H.U.D. acronym.The...ahem,sequel,"C.H.U.D. 2:Bud the CHUD", might just be one of the biggest pieces of unfunny shit ever made,effectively putting the kibosh on any potential franchising the original film might have had.I like to think anyone who unfairly hates the first movie must still feel the rape from renting out the second one.Cheek never directed again afterwards,but got his revenge by switching the reels on the dvd,and the aforementioned feel-good bullshit ending.Still,I find the whole sordid subterranean affair to be pretty enjoyable on all levels,and watch it every now and then.On the scale,it dances around a glowing puddle of green nuclear waste to the tune of three wops' worth.
"Roseanne's queef palace does NOT look like that,Goodman,you bullshitter!"


stonerphonic said...

pure 80's schlock cinematic GOLD. absolute classic. one of my fave 80's flicks. a must have in any collection worth its salt. sweet review BW, sweet.

beedubelhue said...

Tanks pal!


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