Now here is a movie that brings back some memories. Years ago, when I was a kid living in Birmingham, I remember seeing this movie on television and was both freaked out and entertained by it. Yes, I know that this is not exactly the sort of movie a 7 year old should be watching but if you haven’t guessed by now, I am sort of an odd duck. Anyways, I saw it the one time on TV and never saw it again for years, even when I had the opportunity to rent it. Then, I got the urge to watch it again after watching Clerks II and Randall had made a comment to Dante that mentions “chud”. That was enough to get me looking for a copy of C.H.U.D. on DVD but alas, the video was out of print so I had to hop on eBay and track down a copy that was reasonably priced so that I could own my own copy.
The plot: A woman is walking her dog down the street in New York City when something reaches out from a manhole and grabs the woman’s leg, dragging her and the dog into the sewers. The next day, George Cooper, a former fashion photographer who has quit that business and whose new subject is photos of a sect of homeless people that have begun living underground in the sewers, is arguing with a former colleague named Derick about the article Derick is writing, as the subjects George had been talking too and photographing have come up missing. At the same time, George’s model girlfriend, Lauren Daniels, has convinced George to shoot her for a perfume add and as she goes to the basement of their apartment to find her makeup in the boxes they have down there, she hears something moving around near the sewer access. Elsewhere, Francine, a downstairs neighbor of George and Lauren, is walking along the street when she is frightened by a pile of boxes suddenly exploding outward and as she goes to look, she finds a bloody hole leading down into the sewers. At the police station, Captain Bosch calls Chief O’Brien and tells him he can’t keep a lid on things much longer but O’Brien tells him that he has too as the orders came from above the Chief’s head. Bosch has one of his officers pull the files of events in the area while he deals with a homeless woman, Mrs. Monroe, that tried to steal an officer’s gun. After letting the woman make her phone call, Bosch is told that someone had filed a missing person’s report for 12 people and when he goes to investigate, he finds that the person was A.J. Shepherd, whom Bosch had busted 5 years ago. A.J. runs a homeless shelter now and tells Bosch that some of his regulars that live underground have been missing over the past 2 weeks. When Bosch tries to question an undergrounder that is there, the man pulls out a knife and A.J. tells him that a lot of the undergrounders are looking for weapons. Bosch has a hunch and calls his precinct and tells them to follow Mrs. Monroe when she is bailed out. The Mrs. Monroe had called George and after he goes to bail her out, she asks if he has some bandages and when they get them, she leads them to Victor, the undergrounder that she was trying to steal the gun for. Victor’s leg is wounded by some \thing he is afraid of and when George goes to change the bandage on his leg, he finds that a huge chunk of flesh has been bitten off, right to the bone. Bosch’s man loses George and the bag lady in the sewers so Bosch takes some pictures from an article that George had helped write to A.J. to see if he can recognize anyone in it. When A.J. refuses until Bosch tells him what his interest in the matter is, Bosch admits that his wife has gone missing after walking the dog the night before. A.J. looks at the pictures and recognizes Mrs. Monroe, Victor, and Victor’s friend Hugo. A.J. then asks Bosch about the EPA probe that has been going on, only instead of the normal week this one has been going on for a month and when he tries calling about it, he gets the run around. A.J. then shows Bosch some of the stuff that has been turning up in the tunnel underneath the shelter, including a radiation detector, and as they head into the sewer, they discover a geiger counter. When Bosch turns it on, the counter begins detecting a high source of radiation moving towards them, then moving away and as the counter finally goes quiet, they hear a loud roar coming from further in the sewers. George has returned to his apartment, where Lauren tells him that she is pregnant and as they discuss what to do, they decide to keep the baby. On the street below, a man and his daughter head to a pay phone to call the man’s brother for help when they are attacked by a mutated creature that came out of the sewer, who grabs the man but leaves the girl. The next day, Bosch arrives at the precinct and is told about the girl and he orders men placed at every street corner within his precinct’s jurisdiction, then calls O’Brien and tells him to get a meeting with the Commissioner and a representative from the NRC. Bosch goes to get A.J. and his evidence and then goes to get George to get his help but when he doesn’t answer the door, A.J. picks the lock and they head inside, where they find and take the pictures of Victor and his leg. They then head to the meeting and Bosch lays out his case but when the Commissioner and Wilson, the NRC rep, don’t seem inclined to do anything, A.J. shows them the pictures of Victor’s leg and threatens to go public with what is going on and their covering it up. Meanwhile, George and Lauren are having a picnic in the park when they are approached by Murphy, a freelance reporter, who wants George’s help in finding out what is going on underground but George refuses to help him. Back at City Hall, Wilson reluctantly tells them that there is radioactive material under the city but a court order is preventing them from moving it out of the city. When A.J. asks what they are going to do about the disappearances, Wilson says they don’t have anything to do with their situation, then taunts A.J. when he says he will go to the press. A.J. grabs all of his things and leaves and when he does, Wilson gets on the phone and alerts someone to stop him from going to the press. Meanwhile, Bosch had gone to pick up Wilson’s briefcase that A.J. had tossed and notices a file inside called C.H.U.D. Wilson tells him not to mess with the file as Bosch asks to know what C.H.U.D. means when Wilson gets a call. After hanging up, he tells them that C.H.U.D. stands for cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller and that his team just found the body of one. They head out to where the body is, and after Wilson and Bosch examine it, wearing hazmat suits as it is radioactive, Wilson is told it died from asphyxiation. Wilson wants to send his team back in, saying that that was the only creature, and Bosch wants to send some of his men armed with flamethrowers for protection but Wilson overrules him. When Wilson’s team heads down there, they discover that Bosch had disobeyed his orders and sent a team down there anyways. Wilson wants Bosch to pull his men back but Bosch refuses and Wilson reluctantly tells his team to continue with the cops. As they make their way into the tunnels, the geiger counters suddenly start going off and they see something approaching them. Bosch orders them to use the flamethrowers but it has no effect on the creatures and they proceed to slaughter the team. After seeing the video of the incident, the Commissioner agrees with Bosch that the people must be warned but Wilson says he can handle it and plans on using sealing the tunnels and sewers then flooding them with gas, killing off all of the creatures. Bosch goes to see A.J., who is recovering from being jumped by Wilson’s man, and he tells him about Wilson’s plan and warns him to get out of the area but A.J. says he can’t leave. Bosch heads out and A.J. goes into the tunnel to warn Val to get out of there but as Val goes to leave, he is knocked back down the ladder, breaking his neck in the fall, and Wilson’s man locks the door, sealing A.J. down in the tunnel. Meanwhile, George returns home to find his pictures missing and, believing Murphy took them, he calls him up and arranges a meeting. When they meet, Murphy tells him that the police have them to show as proof of a coverup and tells George that he wants to head down into the underground. George reluctantly takes him down there but as Murphy examines a tunnel, he is attacked and killed by a Chud and George grabs his gun and runs off. A.J. uses the geiger counter to help him make his way through the sewers and avoid the Chud when he finds a large group of them around Wilson’s nuclear waste material that has broken open in the sewers. When A.J. accidentally alerts them to his presence, he runs off and climbs to a higher level but accidentally drops the geiger counter, which is going off the charts as one of the Chud approaches. On the surface, Lauren is going through some old photos when she drops something that rolls under the trap door to the sewers. When she heads down there, she finds Bosch’s dead dog hanging from a pipe and she quickly runs back upstairs and locks the door. Elsewhere, Bosch is called out to the scene of a dead body only to discover that it is his wife and after the officers drag him out of there, he heads to a bar and starts drinking. Lauren calls the police and reports about the dead dog, then goes to take a shower. As she is in the shower, the drain suddenly clogs up and when she uses a coat hanger to try and clear up the clog, a shower of blood suddenly erupts from the drain, covering her. Meanwhile, a Chud manages to crawl out from the sewer and breaks down the door from the basement. Elsewhere, 2 patrol officers enter a diner, having just come off their shift, but as they flirt with the waitress/cook, a group of Chud emerge from the sewer and proceed to attack the diner, killing everyone inside. In the sewers, George makes his way to where Victor was only to find Hugo has been ripped in half and George is beginning to turn into a Chud. George is forced to kill Victor and Mrs. Monroe hits him, then grabs the gun and plans on killing George but A.J. knocks her out and save him. Back on the surface, Bosch hears about the diner and heads over there, blaming Wilson for everyone’s death including his wife but O’Brien tells him to head to his car and calm down. Lauren sees the news report on the diner and the gas going into the sewers and, worrying about George, she goes to try and tell the police that he is down there when she sees a Chud coming up the stairs towards her. Lauren quickly rushes back into her apartment and barricades the door, then tries to phone for help but accidentally rips the phone from the cord when she trips over a chair. Two police officers show up, from her earlier call, and head inside only to be killed by the Chud and as Lauren screams for help, the Chud breaks into the apartment but she manages to kill it by chopping off it’s head. Back in the sewers, George and A.J. make their way past the toxic waste only to find more containers from the NRC, marked Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal and they realize that Wilson has been dumping the stuff down there for years and is trying to cover up his own mistake. They soon find the remains of Wilson’s and Bosch’s men and manage to make contact with Bosch, telling him what they learned and he tells them he will meet them at the manhole cover. Bosch goes to get the keys to the truck but Wilson grabs them from the man before Bosch can grab them. Bosch threatens to expose Wilson’s secret and Wilson pulls him aside to talk. As Bosch explains that he knows the truth, Wilson pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Bosch but Bosch punches him and grabs the keys. Lauren reaches the diner and tells an officer to stop the gas and when he tells her he can’t do that, she asks who is in charge and he points to Wilson, who had recovered and taken off after Bosch. Bosch moves the truck and starts to move the manhole cover when Wilson shoots him. He then drags Bosch’s body out of the way and gets into the truck but as he starts it, George and A.J. manage to lift the manhole cover and get out of the sewer. Wilson sees them and tries to run them over but Lauren arrives and screams out a warning at them, allowing them to move out of the way in time. As Wilson turns around to try again, A.J. sees Bosch’s body and grabs his gun, shooting at Wilson and eventually hitting him. As the van continues moving forward, it ends up hitting the open manhole cover and explodes, as Wilson had ordered them to be rigged that way. George and Lauren embrace and kiss while A.J. hears Bosch tell him “Nice shot”, and he heads over to find Bosch barely alive.
C.H.U.D. met with poor results from the critics, currently holding a 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, some liked the tone of the movie while it’s detractors felt it was too slow and boring to make it worthwhile. C.H.U.D. is an acronym for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller but in the movie, it was meant to officially refer to Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal, which was the EPA’s botched plan that ended up spawning the chuds. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $4.7 million off of a $1.25 million budget and would spawn a sequel 5 years later.
This is one of those movies that always strikes a cord with my memories. That being said, I can admit that while it is somewhat entertaining, this could have been a lot better. The acting was ok, with John Heard (George), Daniel Stern (A.J.), Christopher Curry (Bosch), and Kim Griest (Lauren) doing good jobs in their roles. I also liked George Martin (Wilson), as I thought he played his character as the perfect government agent that wanted to keep his secrets contained. The story was interesting, playing off of a rise in concern over the handling of nuclear/radioactive waste, but the pacing was so slow at the beginning that it actually hurt the movie because the ending felt a little forced in their attempt to try and tie everything up. The special effects were pretty decent in regards to the creature designs and make up but they didn’t really show them actually attacking anyone; you would generally only see the aftermath which was a little disappointing. It is a fun bit of 80’s nostalgia horror but it isn’t going to be for everyone.
Rating: 3 out of 5