“Released in 1984, C.H.U.D. is a B-Horror flick that uses the urban paranoia of the early 80’s to fuel its story of strange happenings beneath the streets of New York City. The title stands for “cannibalistic humanoid underground dweller” and the title really says it all. After years of rumors of things like alligators in the sewers, I suppose strange underground creatures that feed off of humans isn’t too much of a stretch. Helped along by a surprisingly star-filled cast, what the film lacks in gore it definitely makes up in cheesy fun.
The New York City Police Department has been flooded with reports of missing persons, but since most of them are homeless no one really seems to care. That is, no one except former fashion photographer turned serious artist George Cooper (John Heard) and paranoid hippy soup kitchen owner A.J. “The Reverend’ Shepherd (Daniel Stern). Both men have taken an interest in their “undergrounder” friends and both men start to feel like there is something else at play. Along the way they are joined by police Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry), who takes an interest after his wife goes missing, and together the three men find that they’re in for a little bit more than they bargained for.
You see, C.H.U.D. also stands for something else, “contamination hazard urban disposal”. As it turns out, the Nuclear Regulatory Committee has been dumping their toxic waste in the sewers of New York City turning the city’s homeless into disgusting, mutated creatures with an appetite for human flesh. As the truth, and the monsters, start to leak out into the city streets leave it to the N.R.C. to respond to a bad situation with an even worse plan. A plan that traps Cooper and ‘The Reverend’ in the sewers scrambling for their lives.
Douglas Cheek didn’t do much as a director, but his only feature is an admirable attempt to bring social issues into the B-horror realm. Using America’s treatment of the homeless as an underlying message, the filmmakers attempt to bring a little more meat to the table. Unfortunately this results in an often overly talky film that is not helped by its absence of gore. It’s not all bad, mind you. Daniel Stern is a riot, he plays ‘The Reverend’ with such a sincere ferver that he’s not only convincing, but he helps to make the film work as a whole. You can tell the goal here was to create atmosphere and it’s a mostly successful attempt to do so. At a budget of just over $1 million, it obviously does not have the production value of a bigger film, but I’d say it just adds to the charm. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “must watch”, but if you can appreciate films like Critters or Killer Klowns From Outer Space then you can probably enjoy C.H.U.D. on some level.