Viking Night: CHUD
By Bruce Hall
June 10, 2014
With a name like “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers” it has to be good, right?
I have said many times that step one of putting together a horror movie is to come up with an awesome title, and “C.H.U.D.” definitely makes the grade. It sounds nice and evil and visually, it really pops off a poster, tee shirt or the side of a windowless van. Hell, with a great title like that, the fact that it’s about mutant subterranean cannibals is only natural. So when I decided to revisit C.H.U.D., I gleefully envisioned hordes of flesh-eating freaks spilling out of the sewers and running straight into reams of machine gun fire from row after row of stone-faced cops. I expected rivers of blood, massive explosions and because it was the ‘80s, perhaps a touch of gratuitous partial nudity – tastefully done, of course.
Regrettably, none of these things happened. In fact, it’s hard not to say that the act of logging onto Netflix to watch this movie was more exciting than the movie itself. I avoided this film when it originally came out because none of my friends had anything good to say about it, and because I had not yet perfected my technique for sneaking into rated R movies (thanks, RoboCop!). I remembered very little about C.H.U.D., but before the opening credits were finished it all came back to me. Now I knew why they told me to stay away, and realized what an act of mercy it was. That's because when the very first scene of a film is even more off putting than the words “turn your head and cough,” you are in for a world of suck.
Picture, if you will, a rain-slicked street in a residential area of Manhattan. For some reason, a woman is walking her dog in the middle of the night, right down the center stripe. You know, the way everyone walks their dog. She drops something as she passes a conspicuous looking manhole, because of course she does. Suddenly, what is obviously an actor’s arm inside a rubber glove reaches out of the manhole and yanks her - and her little dog, too - into the sewer. Okay, fine. Our setup is that there’s something living under the streets and it craves not just human flesh, as we were promised, but it digs dog meat as well. That's fantastic - but there’s just something OFF about C.H.U.D., right from the start.
What should have been a functional, if not entirely original opening just feels flat and stupid. Maybe it’s the K-Mart brand rubber prosthetics. Maybe it’s the way nobody would ever walk their dog that way. Maybe it’s the way this and almost every scene in the movie feels like it was shot by three different directors before being lovingly edited at the hands of Stevie Wonder. From shot to shot it's hard to tell whether I’m supposed to laugh, feel scared, or just be confused and angry. It's a baffling experience that actually has a moment or two in the first act, before losing direction entirely and spinning off into space like Vader's TIE fighter.