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C.H.U.D II: Bud The C.H.U.D.

Vestron Video // R // November 22, 2016
List Price: $34.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 18, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The tagline reads "they're not staying down there anymore!" How can you call yourself a Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller without the whole 'Underground Dweller' part of the deal? I guess that'd technically make Bud a C.H., but that doesn't exactly roll off the tongue that same way.

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I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Let's talk plot! The military's C.H.U.D. warfare program is on ice. No, really; the last C.H.U.D. off the assembly line -- you can call him Bud (Gerrit Graham) -- is quite literally in cold storage. Turns out the military brass isn't all that keen on funding an army of flesh-eating ghouls, but Colonel Masters (Robert Vaughn) figures that undead super-soldiers are just an idea before its time. He has Bud frozen like a TV dinner, and he'll defrost the guy when the project is inevitably reactivated someday down the road.

The only thing is...oh, no! Courtesy of some madcap '80s-style sitcom hijinks, Steve (Head of the Class' Brian Robbins) and Kevin (Bill Calvert) have inadvertently sent a cadaver sailing down the highway. Their hard-ass professor is gonna expel 'em for sure when he finds out. Wait, though! Any corpse is as good as another, right? They know just where to find a replacement too: their friendly, neighborhood Disease Control Center! Professor Whateverhisnameis will be none the wiser too.

So, yeah, they've snatched a C.H.U.D. They're C.H.U.D.nappers. As far as they know, though, he's just another cadaver. It's just that a bubble bath and some ill-advised fidgeting with a hair dryer later, Bud's up and at 'em again, and golly, does he have an appetite! One chomp from Bud and you're looking at another C.H.U.D. And another. And another. And another. Before you know it, the sleepy little town of Woodhaven is up to its elbows in C.H.U.D.s. Zombies to the left of me. Robert Vaughn flailing around a riding crop and whipping out a rocket launcher to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with something something something.

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Forget the vampiric anthropomorphic rat creature lookin' horrorshows on the cover art; C.H.U.D. II has nothing to do with the first flick. The whole C.H.U.D. thing is practically stapled on; with some minor retooling, it could easily be another Return of the Living Dead sequel, even. (Kinda works out that this Blu-ray release is hitting store shelves at the same time as Return of the Living Dead III, then.) Unrecognizably different monsters. Different hunting grounds. These C.H.U.D.s are barely cannibals; they're more the type to nibble rather than devour, and you hardly even see bite marks on their prey afterwards. There wasn't anything in the first flick about C.H.U.D.-ification being a communicable thing, but here, you get so much as nipped, and you're gray-skinned and fanged twenty seconds later.

Then again, who cares? So C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. was written by a guy who probably never got around to seeing the first movie and definitely didn't wanna put his name on it. (Troll's Ed Naha is credited here as M. Kane Jeeves -- a W.C. Fields pseudonym -- instead.) And, yeah, it's a comedy rather than a straight-up horror flick. We're not talking about, like, the C.H.U.D. Cinematic Universe. A sequel doesn't have to settle for more of the same. All that matters is that it's cacklingly gruesome and has a killer sense of humor, right? This is where I heave a heavy sigh. To recap, C.H.U.D. II fails as a sequel to the original flick. It doesn't really even attempt to be a horror flick. The only reason you'd even call it a horror/comedy rather than a flat-out comedy is because there happen to be zombies. There's no gore or viscera to speak of, very little blood, and approaching zero gruesome makeup effects. C.H.U.D.s go boom. A head or two gets bloodlessly lopped off. One poor bastard takes a torch through the forehead. That's abooooout it.

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As for its sense of humor, there's not a single laugh lurking anywhere throughout C.H.U.D. II. It's big on sitcommy gags like something crazy happening in the background to which the folks closer to the camera are completely oblivious. Thrill to puns like this one. "Where would you go if you were a dead guy?" "I don't know, a Grateful Dead concert?" Get it?! "My mother never used mudpacks and beauty creams when I was a kid." "Your mother looked like Humphrey Bogart!" "My mother never smoked a cigarette in her life!" I...hmmm, okay, no. A ravenous Bud decides that Steve's pet poodle is the doggie treat he's been aching for. He takes a bite and snarks "good doggie." A couple of C.H.U.D.s bicker "less filling!" "tastes great!" outside a bar. Bud tries to pump up his C.H.U.D.-lings like a football coach. "Eat 'em up! Eat 'em up!" "Yum yum yum!" You get to hear Robert Vaughn excitedly shout "this C.H.U.D.'s for you!", which...okay, that's actually pretty great. Between all that and the apple chomping sound effects, I feel like I've wandered into Flesh Eating Mothers, and that's really not a good thing.

I can get suckered in by doofy slapstick, but C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. never really figures out how to coax a laugh from any of it. I'm impressed by how game Robert Vaughn is, gnawing gleefully on all the scenery (mostly figuratively) and generally going hogwild as a deranged, armed-to-the-teeth colonel. I can get why Bud would harbor such a crush on Katie (Tricia Leigh Fisher), Steve and Kevin's gal pal who's no damsel in distress. That one-way-street infatuation is kinda cute and fun with a payoff to match. The parade of cameos helps to liven things up, including turns by Norman Fell, June Lockhart, Rich Hall, and, why not?, Robert Englund. (Freddy gets his own scrawled-in-crayon cameo too.) I wound up really digging most of the music throughout the flick, particularly the "what the hell...?!" theme song that, of course, leads into a musical number on the way to the big Halloween dance. Synths and sequencers aside, the one thing C.H.U.D. II really gets right is casting Gerrit Graham as Bud. His physicality, bug-eyed facial expressions, and natural charm go a long way. Not long enough, no, but... If nothing else, I can honestly say this is the only zombie flick I've seen with undead Jazzercizing, so there's that. But...uh, yeah. Skip It.

Poor Bud. Can't get any love, not even on Blu-ray. I have no idea how long this high-def master of C.H.U.D. II has been collecting dust on the shelf, but the smart money says it's been there an awfully long while. Film grain is poorly resolved, saddled with kind of a harsh, video noise-y quality instead, exaggerated by some oversharpening. Pretty much from the first frame to the last, contrast is flat and lifeless. Its colors are so drab that the movie looks years older than it really is. Definition is on the fuzzy side, and C.H.U.D. II never gets around to offering up all that much in the way of fine detail. I guess what I'm getting at is that C.H.U.D. II won't go down in the anals of history as one of Vestron's best looking BDs. Annals, I mean. Annals! (Don't blame me; that gag's straight outta C.H.U.D. II.)

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C.H.U.D. II and its extras are skulking around a dual-layer Blu-ray disc. The flipside of the case lists an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but it's opened up a few scanlines to an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 instead.

The biggest headache about C.H.U.D. II's 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is its dialogue. Not only can it sound kinda thin and brittle, but a fair number of lines pop at the peaks of their waveforms. Most everything else in the mix sounds nice enough, though. The synth-bass and electronic drums pack a hell of a wallop, courtesy of Wall of Voodoo's Andy Prieboy and composer Nicholas Pike. There's some really strong stereo separation: claps of thunder, military-grade portable blast chillers stopping those zombies dead in their tracks, and the flick's flash frozen finalé, most memorably. Sound effects are hit or miss, but a certain squishy denouement stands out as a highlight, along with all the apple-chomp C.H.U.D.-munching. Aside from the clipped dialogue, no glaring flaws leapt out at me. 'Sokay, overall.

Also included is a set of English (SDH) subtitles.

  • Interviews (44 min.; HD): The first and lengthiest of C.H.U.D. II's three interviews is a sixteen minute sit-down with star Gerrit Graham. He talks about how his career in cult cinema wasn't exactly Plan A, how his background in improv helped bring Bud to life, his expressiveness and physicality not getting weighed down by prosthetics, and pointing out which sequence was the most challenging of the shoot. It's charming and a whole lotta fun, but "interview with Gerrit Graham" pretty much told you all that already.

    Next up to the plate is actress Tricia Leigh Fisher, who chats for around thirteen minutes about fulfilling her lifelong dream to scream in a horror flick, one scene in particular where she was mightily fighting back the giggles, and how it turns out "On Hold" on the call sheet isn't code for "spend all day at Magic Mountain". Fisher tells another story about how tough the pool sequence was to shoot, and she had to do it in a wedgie-inducing swimsuit too!

    Finally, makeup effects artist Allan Apone delves into how the look of the C.H.U.D.s was discovered while doing some makeup experiments, pulling off C.H.U.D.sicles with fiberglass molds, and everything you wanted to know about exploding C.H.U.D.s and that harrowing pool sequence but were afraid to ask. Gingerly mixed in here are home movies from the set, and that's an unexpected treat.
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  • Audio Commentary: Red Shirt Pictures' Michael Felsher sits down with director David Irving for C.H.U.D. II's commentary track. Felsher has no shortage of questions for Irving, to the point that it's a while before Felsher directs the chatter towards this movie in particular. Irving talks about how tough a time Vestron had finding someone who could direct a screenplay this ambitious with pretty much no budget to speak of. There's a good bit of chatter about the casting of Bud, from a studio that figured an underpaid extra could tackle it all on the cheap to Irving having to replace an actor who'd already been cast when Gerrit Graham was back onboard. There are some pretty solid highlights served up here: how improv can make a movie difficult to piece together in the editing room, the rules and restrictions that Irving took care to insert into his contracts, the revelation that Vestron frowned on Robert Englund's cameo and had it cut way back, and an explanation about why nepotism in the entertainment industry isn't necessarily a bad thing. Even though Irving still hasn't gotten around to seeing the first C.H.U.D. yet, he does brainstorm some ideas for what they could do with C.H.U.D. III if Lionsgate or whoever were to open up their wallets.

  • Still Gallery (7 min.; HD): Lotsa production stills. A little video art.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Not a trailer so much as a Reader's Digest Condensed Movie, you see pretty much everything that C.H.U.D. II has to offer -- down to the ending -- in this two minute home video promo.

Oh, and C.H.U.D. II comes packaged in a slipcover.

The Final Word
I mean, it's a horror/comedy without any scares or laughs. Strip those away, and all that's left is the /.

C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. is the sort of thing that was probably a whole lot more fun to make than it is to watch. Gerrit Graham's all-in performance elevates it to something kinda-sorta-tolerable, but even for a schlock completist like myself, this is...whew. I get why the resurrected Vestron wouldn't shell out fistfuls of money to lovingly remaster C.H.U.D. II, but this really is a substandard high-def presentation too. Maybe even sub-substandard, if that's a word. Not recommended, but I'm pretty sure you figured that out already.
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