Directed by Douglas Cheek in 1984, C.H.U.D. opens with a scene in New York City where, late one night, a woman walks her dog only for a manhole to open up as she passes by. Inhuman hands come out, grab her and pull her down. From here, we meet a photographer named George Cooper (John Heard) and his fashion model wife, Lauren (Kim Greist). She's roped him into shooting her for a perfume commercial but his heart isn't in it, he's far more concerned with his most recent pet project: a series of photos he took of the people who live underground in New York. When one of the subjects of that shoot calls him to have him bail her out, he winds up heading into the tunnels with her only to find that a lot of the homeless people down there are living in fear or… something.
Meanwhile, a cop named Bosch (Christopher Curry) is wondering what happened to his wife, but not letting it stop him from doing his job. When he hears rumblings of something happening underground, he starts pressuring a contact of his named A.J. (Daniel Stern), better known as The Reverend, for information. Before you know it, Bosch and A.J. have uncovered evidence of a government conspiracy involving radiation, mutations and ‘cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers!.' They try to get the powers that be to listen to them, but this goes to the top. As George's story starts to line up with Bosch and A.J.'s work, it soon becomes clear that New York City has a big problem in the tunnels that run like veins under Manhattan… a much bigger problem than rats or roaches.
C.H.U.D. remains a pretty fun watch. It's a solid monster movie that blends in some interesting conspiracy theory elements and that features an enjoyable cast and some excellent New York City location photography (what wasn't shot no a soundstage was shot on location, mostly on the Lower East Side of Manhattan). The movie flows at a good clip and it offers up a few decent gory set pieces and some neat monster design and effects work.
Daniel Stern and John Heard (six years before they'd work together on Home Alone) do most of the heavy lifting in the film, with Christopher Curry getting a lot of screen time here as well. Heard's character is a bit abrasive, he's got an attitude, but he cares about his wife and his heart is in the right place. He's well cast here and handles the material just fine. Stern is more amusing, he's goofy and just endlessly watchable strutting about with his shaggy beard and perpetually greasy looking attire. He and Curry have a great, if unorthodox, sort of camaraderie in this movie and they're a really fun oil and water combination. Supporting work from Kim Greist is solid, and be on the lookout for Jay Thomas (in his film debut) and a young John Goodman as two NYPD officers, Brenda Currin as George's landlady, Michael O'Hare as a nosy reporter and even Sam McMurray as another one of New York's finest.
The low budget might shine through at times but that never really hurts the movie. There's a great sense of franticness to much of the film, and enough suspense and character development to easily hold our attention. It might be a bit rough around the edges a times but C.H.U.D. offers up so much entertainment value that most won't care. It holds up well more than thirty years after it was made, the perfect ‘popcorn movie' to watch in the dark with the lights off and the sound up.
The ninety-six minute version of the movie presented here seems to be the complete, uncut version that incorporates the footage from the TV version along with the footage contained in the theatrical version.The Blu-ray:
C.H.U.D. arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks quite good. This has always been a pretty grubby looking movie but this is a film-like transfer, complete with plenty of natural grain present throughout. There are some shots that look a little softer than others but by and large clarity, texture and detail are just fine. Colors are quite strong here too, without looking boosted, and we get nice black levels, solid shadow detail and good depth. Skin tones look nice and natural and there are no issues with any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. Compression artifacts are a non-issue and outside of some small white specks here and there, the picture is pretty clean. No complaints here. This is a definite upgrade over what we've seen before on DVD for this particular film.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is an English language LPCM 2.0 Mono track but it sounds quite good. Levels are nicely balanced and the music that is used throughout the movie is appropriately punchy sounding. There's good depth to the track and no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.Extras:
Extras on disc one start off with a commentary track from Michael Felsher moderating a track with Martin Cooper and David Hughes, the men who composed the music used in the film. They talk about how they got into film composing, their musical backgrounds and education, how they came to be involved in this American film being from the UK, the amount of luck that was involved in them getting work when the manager of Echo And The Bunny Men got their tape to the right person at Warner Brothers, some of the gear that they used for this score and why it was chosen, some of the tricks that they used to create the score by adjusting the speed and what not and a fair bit more. Roughly half an hour in, the interview/commentary finishes up and we get the chance to hear the film's isolated score on its own.
John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, Douglas Cheek and Shepard Abbott also appear on a commentary track. This one is a lot of fun, these guys are having a blast revisiting this picture and have a great sense of humor about their work here. It's also very informative, as they talk about who did what, some of the effects work featured in the picture, the locations that they shot on, who wrote what for the film, where a lot of the ideas for the movie came from, casting the picture and loads more.
Also check out a featurette called A Dirty Look that interviews production designer William Bilowit. He talks about getting his start working on the infamous Nightmare for the scenes that were shot in New York City, which eventually wound up landing him a job working on C.H.U.D.. He then goes on to talk about his experiences working on this picture, some of the challenges that the modest budget provided him, shooting on location in Manhattan versus shooting on a soundstage and more. In Dweller Designs we spend twelve minutes with John Caglione, Jr., the man responsible for bringing the monsters to life with his effects work. He talks about what was involved in creating the creature suits, some of the tricks that he used to make them look right on screen and his process for creating monsters in general. Notes From Above Ground is a nine minutes piece where Mike Gingold and Ted Geoghegan take us around Manhattan to show us what some of the locations used in the feature look like now compared to how they appear in the movie.
Aside from that we get a theatrical trailer for the feature, a still gallery, an extended version of the shower scene that includes a bit of nudity, animated menus and chapter selection.
The second disc in the set includes the theatrical cut of the movie, which runs ten minute shorter than the uncut version presented on disc one. The most obvious difference here is that scene with John Goodman and Jay Thomas that appears about two thirds of the way in on disc one is now the ending of the movie. Also the scene where Bosch finds his wife's corpse has been cut out and there are a few other changes. It's an interesting variant and it's cool to see it included here but the version on disc one is the more interesting and better film. Presentation quality of this alternate version appears to mirror the version included on disc one. The two discs come packaged inside a clear Blu-ray keepcase that also contains a full color booklet containing some writing on the film as well as credits for the feature and for the Blu-ray release itself.Final Thoughts:
C.H.U.D. holds up well as a really fun horror movie. We get a solid cast, a neat premise, some excellent location photography and some genuinely cool monsters. What's not to like? Arrow has done a great job bringing this one to Blu-ray, offering up the movie with two commentary tracks, a few featurettes and a couple of other fun extras. The presentation itself is also really solid, giving the film a great transfer and strong audio. Highly recommended!