From the subterranean depths it crawls! Finally making its long-awaited debut on Blu-ray, director Douglas Cheek s cult 80s favorite C.H.U.D. is the ultimate underground movie experience. In downtown Manhattan, a police captain s hunt for his missing wife leads to the discovery of a series of mysterious disappearances in the area. Extending his search into the tunnels and sewers below the city streets, it soon becomes clear that something monstrous is lurking in that subterranean world and it won t stay there much longer... Starring John Heard (Home Alone) and Christopher Curry (Starship Troopers) alongside an early appearance from John Goodman, C.H.U.D. has justifiably built up a huge cult following in the years since its release in 1984, with one of the most iconic creature designs of the period.
"Are you kidding? Your guy's got a camera. Mine's got a flamethrower!"
There's something about the drive-in theater stylings of a creature feature that warms the cockles of my heart. As a kid of the 80s, I grew up ingesting a steady diet of masked slashers, satanic creatures of the damned, and slimy monsters who enjoyed the delicious flavors of human flesh. It didn't matter to me that most of the time the creature in question was simply a rubber mask covered in goop and fake blood, it was just fun. Horror, terror, and frights were secondary to the fun the flick in question offered - even if the monster was an irradiated human hellbent on eating people for dinner. 1984's 'C.H.U.D.' directed by Douglas Cheek and starring John Heard and Daniel Stern is the quintessential 80s monster flick. It may not be all that scary, but it's sense of energy, humor, and low-budget origins make it a winner.
The people in one New York City neighborhood have got a big problem brewing under their feet. One night after the next, someone goes missing - and the police are powerless to stop it. Without any clues to go on Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry) must investigate these disappearances, but he's getting an odd amount of pressure from City Hall to keep a lid on things. Meanwhile, photographer George Cooper (John Heard) is working on a photo story about street people - but his subjects are going missing and those that remain are desperate for weapons. At the same time, soup kitchen owner A.J. Shepherd (Daniel Stern) is worried about his "undergrounders," the people who never come to the surface as he hasn't seen his regulars for a couple of weeks. When it's discovered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a dark and dirty secret they want to remain hidden, it may be too late to save the people of New York from the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers lurking in the sewers!
To put it simply, 'C.H.U.D.' is a legendary movie. Not necessarily in the respects that it's the greatest movie of all time, but it's one that people know of even if they've never taken the time to sit down and watch it. The title itself has become a means to describe people who've missed out on an important event and the only way that could have happened is if they lived in the sewers. Beyond the cultural references, 'C.H.U.D.' was the sort of movie my high school friends and I aspired to make when we got into making short videos in high school. Cook a latex monster mask in the over, slather it in goopy gloss paint, KY jelly, and Karo Syrup-based blood and you had a monster ready to stand in front of a video camera you barrowed from your dad.
On top of being a big piece of my childhood horror movie diet, 'C.H.U.D.' earns its accolades because it makes a smart use out of its meager means. Shot in New York City on a small budget, the movie manages an expensive look and feel without the extra frills. With a smart screenplay by Parnell Hall, Director Douglas Cheek keeps the film moving using a number of classic genre tropes; building suspense with creepy sounds and the chittering of a Geiger counter, the growling guttural noises of the titular C.H.U.D., and then by keeping the monster off screen for as long as possible. A rubber mask with bright glowing yellow eyes could have been silly, but they manage to make the monsters of the flick oozy gooey nightmare creatures.
In 2011, I was one of those people who fell for the terrible and tragic 'C.H.U.D.' Criterion Collection April Fools Day gag. Owning the aged Anchor Bay DVD, I was eager for a good and proper HD upgrade with an assortment of fantastic bonus features to match. Sadly, it was not meant to be and that amazing green pop-art cover design work would remain a dream until Arrow Video managed to snag the distribution rights. Finally, both the Integral Cut, as well as the Theatrical Cut are presented on Blu-ray. This is a great set and it's reassuring to see a little 80s genre gem like 'C.H.U.D.' be given the Collector's Edition treatment it deserves. This set may not complete my childhood 80s horror collection, but it fills a big gap. If you've somehow managed to go your entire life without viewing 'C.H.U.D,' there's no time like the present to experience the gory good fun this flick has to offer.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'C.H.U.D.' makes it's Blu-ray debut courtesy of Arrow Video in a 2-Disc Limited Edition set. The Integral Cut which runs 96 minutes is pressed onto a Region A BD50 disc. The 88-minute Theatrical Cut is pressed onto a Region A BD25 disc. Both discs load to their respective animated main menus with traditional navigation options. Both discs are housed in a sturdy clear plastic 2-disc Blu-ray case with reversible artwork with each disc getting their own tray to occupy. Also included is a booklet containing stills from the film as well as a making-of essay by Michael Gingold.
The booklet accompanying this release of 'C.H.U.D.' states that the film received a fresh new 2k scan and restoration efforts removing dirt, debris, and damage was supervised by James White and Arrow Films. Even though the film was shot on 35mm, it wasn't one that ever looked like a big expensive major motion picture. Due to its visual stylings, I was convinced for years that the film was shot on 16mm as it has that heavier grainy look to the image. That traditional appearance of this film remains, so those expecting the film to look like a $100million modern movie will be left in the cold. 'C.H.U.D.' has always looked rough around the edges - but that doesn't mean this 1.85:1 transfer looks bad, it just replicates the filmmaker's intentions. Film grain is visible, but it's not noisy or intrusive to the image. Detail levels are middling, they're good when the scene is out in daylight or a well-lit room, but darker scenes tend to be a bit softer and some of the finer details get lost. Thankfully our titular monsters come through with terrific clarity in those brief moments we get to see them and the few smattering gore shots look bloody terrific - especially that leg wound! Colors are also rich and very primary heavy - almost to the point of looking like an old 4-color record album cover, but in a good way. Skin tones look healthy and natural without any sort of grading or teal/orange push. Taking a quick look at the old Anchor Bay DVD, it's clear that a lot of effort went into to removing dirt, fill in speckling, and take care of those scratches. There are a few moments were speckling slips in or a very fine scratch shows up, but they're so fleeting and few that it's hardly something to complain about. After all, this is 'C.H.U.D.' we're talking about. It's great to see this movie get the restoration services it did.
'C.H.U.D.' arrives with a solid LPCM mono track. This film was never one for a rich surround presence so I'm glad Arrow chose not to force that issue or simply smash the track together as a DTS-MA stereo mix. Dialogue comes through clearly without any interference from sound effects or music elements. Imaging is obviously restricted, but there is a nice sense of atmosphere and some directionality does manage to creep through during scenes where someone is sneaking around a darkly-lit set piece as a setup for a jump scare. The electric score from Cooper Hughes sounds fantastic and those low synth notes help push some LFE presence into the movie - at least when a C.H.U.D. isn't available to provide a nice guttural growl. As stated in the booklet, the audio was transferred from the original 35mm magnetic master reels and sounds fantastic as this presentation is free of any hiss, pop, drop outs, or age-related issues of any kind.
Audio Commentary: Directory Douglas Cheek, Writer Shepard Abbott, John Heard, Daniel Stern, and Christopher Curry headline this commentary effort. It's the same track as the one included with the old Anchor Bay DVD. It's a great listen as they cover all the aspects of making the film - and they're clearly having a great time watching it again together.
Composer Audio Interview and Score: This plays more like an extra bonus commentary track featuring the musicians Martin Cooper and David A Hughes. It's cool to hear their thoughts about their score and then hearing the electro-synth score all on its own is a treat.
A Dirty Look: (HD 19:11) Production Designer William Bilowit offers up some great insights and bits about how they achieved the grimy and dirty look of the film.
Dweller Designs: (HD 12:07) Special Make-up effects and creature designer John Caglione Jr. goes into nice detail about how he got into creature and make-up design work as well as creating the titular monsters for 'C.H.U.D.'
Notes from Above Ground: (9:10) Writer Michael Gingold and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan take a fun little tour of New York City to check out some of the film's shooting locations.
Extended Shower Scene: (SD 1:24) This looks to be sourced from a workprint master, the scene offers up a little more T&A with an obvious body double, but that's about it.
Behind-the-Scenes Gallery: (HD 5:32)
Trailer: (HD 1:36)
After that mean 2011 April Fools Day gag, I began to feel like 'C.H.U.D.' would never see the Blu-ray light, or if it did, it'd be a crappy bare-bones dash off release that would line the $7 bins at Wal-Mart. Thankfully that dire feeling never came to pass. Arrow Video has done right by this film and its fans by putting forth one hell of a great 2-Disc Blu-ray release. The film looks and sounds better than ever and comes packed with two cuts of the film along with a bunch of informative worthwhile bonus features to pick through. It's nice to see a movie of 'C.H.U.D.'s caliber be treated with this much respect. Needless to say, this Blu-ray release is highly recommended.