Mon. Mar 8th, 2021

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Reed Alexander’s Horror Review of C.H.U.D. (1984)

6 min read

Surprisingly good for bad horror.

This movie is pretty bad, but for what it is, it’s actually quite good. And I don’t mean ‘so bad it’s good,’ I mean actually good. And I’m not grading on a curve here. Don’t misunderstand me, there is so much about this movie that is jut flat out bad that it should fit into the category of good-bad movies. In fact, I struggle to place it anywhere else. It’s a bit of a paradox, a movie being both good and bad while not technically being good-bad.

Let me do my best to explain. The acting is about what you’d expect for horror, so not exactly good. Acceptable for what it was, but that’s a pretty low bar. Which is funny because the movie has both Daniel Stern, and John Goodman (though just a bit part). Both their careers were just starting out though. The practical FX were silly as all fuck. The rubber monsters were absolutely laughable. Though iconic, they really were the silliest looking things, and didn’t exactly make a ton of sense. They were also over the top, one of them stretching its neck for no identifiable reason, basically just to add some fun gore and violence. The setting was solid. Kinda hard to fuck up filthy NYC in the 80’s. That made for a good atmosphere, sure, but so many silly details were added, it kinda ruins the effect.

The story is absolute nonsense. Radioactive cannibalistic humanoids in the sewers is just about as valid as alligators in the sewers. The idea being that the government dumped toxic waste into the NYC underground and it started mutating all the sewer bums into monsters. That’s technically not a spoiler as they reveal it early on in the movie. I mean, we’re talking about the idea that would inspire the creation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. TMNT predates C.H.U.D. by about three moths with the release of issue #1. I guess the 1980 subway restoration project kicked up a lot of fuss in the 80s.

But amazingly, everything put together just sorta made all the bad parts tolerable. They sorta squish everything in and it makes the over all presentation successful, even though on close observation, each part is individually pretty bad. In macro, what you get is actually quite good, even if a bit silly.

So it goes a bit beyond being a ‘good-bad’ movie into actually being good, if only just barely. However, I can still only recommend this to Hardcore Horror Heads. I can’t even call this required viewing for all Horror Heads, though I certainly can recommend it to Riffers.

SPOILERS!!!

The weird twist in this movie is not only not a twist, but it’s just dumb. During the meeting with the mayor, the police commissioner, and the local head of the Nuclear Commission, the NC head tells police Captain Bosch, that there are monsters in the sewer and that they were caused by the NC moving radioactive waste through the sewers. This is when they spring the term C.H.U.D. for Cannibalistic, Humanoid, Underground Dweller. But it turns out that’s not what the really means and it becomes kind of a weird twist.

First off, where the fuck did the NC guy pull that out of? They make the scene fee like the meaning for C.H.U.D. was improvised. But the actual meaning is Contaminated, Hazardous, Urban Disposal. This is set up as this huge reveal as though we didn’t already know that’s what was going on. I mean, I guess it kinda matters that the contaminated waste was always down there and not recently like the NC guy said it was, but we’re pulling hairs at that point. It’s like the writer or perhaps the director wanted the meaning of C.H.U.D. to be more clever than it already was.

It also doesn’t make any damn sense. If the C.H.U.D. has been down there for years, and the mutagenic properties happen as fast as their portrayed, then the district would have been crawling with monsters years ago. It wouldn’t be a sudden and new development.

Here’s the thing, this is kinda just a part of the movie’s charm. As I explained, each part of this movie is pretty bad, but the over all execution just somehow works. Even if you don’t consider it a good movie, you’ll likely still enjoy it as a good-bad movie.

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