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Anchor Bay presents
C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) (1984)

"There's NRC men crawling all over this city. Something's gone wrong and it's so bad no one wants to even talk about it."
- Murphy (J.C. Quinn)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 27, 2001

Stars: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry
Other Stars: Kim Greist, J.C. Quinn, George Martin, John Goodman
Director: Douglas Cheek

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, gore, dismemberment, language)
Run Time: 01h:36m:28s
Release Date: January 30, 2001
UPC: 013131132793
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

C.H.U.D. seems to be a somewhat schizophrenic movie; it seems to be dreadfully in earnest, with an interesting structure, but at the same time the violence and the monsters which are at the bottom of it are ludicrously over the top, so much so that you can't help but think the filmmakers thought the same thing when they were making it.

Three separate threads are followed in the early part of this film. One of these is of Reverend A.J. Shepard (Daniel Stern), who runs a soup kitchen for the poor. Another is of George Cooper (John Heard), a fashion photographer who in a bid to become relevant develops a photo-essay on the impoverished who live in the tunnels beneath New York City. The third thread is of police Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry), who is assigned to a multiple-missing persons case that involves at least a dozen of these underground people. As they each investigate the mystery, with the help of a crusading journalist, Murphy (J.C. Quinn), they realize the trail leads to NRC official Wilson (George Martin) and the secret he is keeping about the cannibalistic creatures living underneath the city.

This is a rather different structure for a horror film, and to the director's credit it works rather well. At times the plot can be a little difficult to follow, but eventually things come together quite nicely. Curry comes across best and most believably as the cop who is obsessed (for good reason) with the disappearances. His performance is alternately exhausted and hopped up on adrenaline and caffeine. Kim Greist (Brazil and Manhunter) is passable as Cooper's wife, though she has to suffer through the obligatory Psycho-ripoff shower scene, which in this case ends with a bizarre non sequitur that the participants themselves don't understand. Immediately after what should be a completely unnerving experience, she seems completely unconcerned and blasé, which doesn't help credibility much. John Heard doesn't quite have the charisma to bring off his role. I found him quite unbelievable as a fashion or any other kind of photographer.

The monsters themselves are ridiculous rubber suits coated in slime and afflicted with headlights for eyes. They are laughable in the extreme, making any kind of sustained tension impossible whenever they're on the screen. The only sequence where they manage to be frightening at all is when Cooper, in the sewers, manages to catch a glimpse of a group of them taking part in some kind of bizarre Cthulhoid ritual, and that is effective only because we see them primarily from the back.

The script relies too much on contrivances (such as Cooper's wife accidentally pulling the wire out of the phone as she tries to call for help) to be quite satisfactory. The gore and the grue is generally well done, with plenty of severed heads and disembodied arms to be found. Especially nasty is a scene where the Reverend is looking for the headset to go with a video camera he locates in the sewer, then realizes the headset is on a head disconnected from its body.

C.H.U.D. is thus somewhat of a mixed bag, but worth a look for gorehounds nonetheless.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.77:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Although the picture has good black levels, the colors are somewhat iffy. Flesh tones tend toward the pinkish side, and hardly any colors are given decent saturation. There is a lot of grain present, but considering that much of the film is shot in low-light surroundings underneath New York City, that is to be expected. The anamorphic picture is somewhat soft and lacking in definition. Some minor artifacting was noted in a few sequences, but overall this is an adequate picture.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is an undistinguished 2.0 mono. Dialogue is generally clear, and the synthesized music comes through adequately, but is rather limited in range and dynamic quality. There is little bass to be heard. There is no hiss or noise, however, making this a fairly pleasant, if unspectacular, listening experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Douglas Cheek, stars John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry, and scriptwriter Shepard Abbott
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Behind-the-scenes photos
Extras Review: One has to pity poor Douglas Cheek. No doubt he showed up for the recording of the commentary of C.H.U.D. expecting that he'd get to do a serious Martin Scorsese interpretation of the film and its making and his intentions. Unfortunately, no one told that to stars John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry, who mercilessly mock this movie and their own performances at every opportunity. Cheek tries to get a few serious comments in, but is soon swept away by the general hilarity. There is more laughing on this track than on any other I've heard, with the possible exception of the increasingly drunk cast on Cannibal: The Musical. You won't learn much background about this picture, but you can't help but enjoy the dissection that the cast performs upon it. Thankfully, John Heard himself acknowledges at the outset the confusion over who exactly he is: John Heard? John Hurt? William Hurt? Just so I know I'm not alone in being unable to keep these guys straight. They comment a number of times about scenes that were not in the original theatrical release, and also scenes that seem to be missing here, so it's not clear that we've got an authentic director's cut, or something in between that and a theatrical version.

In addition to an anamorphic trailer, we get about 55 behind-the-scenes photos, including a shot of Greist in a bathing suit for the shower scene. Chaptering is pretty good, but as always Anchor Bay omits both subtitles and closed captioning. The hard of hearing are SOL with C.H.U.D.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A somewhat confused and not wholly effective horror film, given a decent transfer and complete with one of the most whacked-out commentaries I've ever heard. Recommended for its peculiar combination of gore and whimsy.


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