C.H.U.D. (Blu-ray)

November 18, 2016 9 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

Arrow Video recently sent me a copy of the cult classic C.H.U.D. (or Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.) I had been extremely excited from the announcement that Arrow would be releasing it, and luckily it is just as good as you would expect. Arrow Video always does an excellent job of preserving and presenting cult films, and C.H.U.D. is  a well-beloved cult classic and will qualify as one of their most well-known releases that they have secured the rights in the U.S. This is B-Movie filmmaking taken to a very enjoyable level. It’s one of those movies that you watch and just need to have another friend experience it because it doesn’t play by the same rules as other films.

The film begins with a woman walking a small dog down a New York street. As she nears a manhole, a deformed arm with long claws reaches from beneath the manhole and pulls her down below. After this brief introduction the film focuses in on George Cooper (John Heard,) a fashion photographer who occasionally photographs homeless people that live underground, and his model girlfriend, Lauren (Kim Griest.) It ties in his story with a police captain, Bud Bosch (Christopher Curry,) who is looking into a series of disappearances despite the city breathing down his neck to not dig too deep. In Bud’s investigation he runs across A.J. (Daniel Stern) who runs a soup kitchen and is a former nuclear scientist.  A.J. has noticed that many of his regulars that lived beneath the streets of the city have gone missing recently. Also, A.J. Has found equipment from Nuclear protection agencies just below the sewers. This is of particular interest to Bud, because his wife has disappeared while taking the dog for a walk. At the same time, an opportunistic reporter begins to tail George Cooper as he visits his homeless friends living underground.

C.H.U.D. is pretty awesome. While it will not win any academy awards, it has grown a cult following for a reason. It works well because the actors on-screen are actually good actors reading terrifically off-beat lines. It all feels really tongue-in-cheek to have all of these good actors slumming it. John Heard andDaniel Stern would later star in a movie that played in our house o\every Christmas called Home Alone. The film also includes a hilarious cameo from John Goodman in an early role. Unfortunately, the writers and director never really did anything big after this film. It’s too bad, because C.H.U.D. is essentially pure gold. Aside from being a really fun sci-fi/action/horror film, it is a great New York film. It really captures New York so vividly at that time, adding an interesting depth to an absolutely bonkers script. The film is well-paced and never dull. This is well worth your time if you have not ever seen it.

Video: How’s it look?

Arrow Video did a good if not incredible job on the transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a new 2K restoration. Given Arrow’s stellar record on transfers and their obvious love for the film, my guess would be that they tried their very best. Unfortunately, the image is inconsistent. Certain scenes look absolutely incredible, but most of the time it looks pretty soft. Fans will still enjoy this for the heightened detail, but the coloring of the film will probably always remain fairly drained of color, keeping it from ever looking like newer releases.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The audio treatment of C.H.U.D. was very good for what it is. Since it is an LPCM Mono track, dynamic range is extremely limited. This film’s score by Hooper Hughes is pretty enjoyable and memorable, even though it is pretty uncomplicated. I didn’t notice any pops or hisses and dialogue is clear throughout the entire film. I felt happy overall with the treatment that was given to the track, even though it will not be anybody’s demo track in gathering near future.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • One Dirty Look – this interview with the production designer William Bilowit was actually really great. I didn’t know what to expect, but I promise this is well worth your time. The stories about how they shot the film are pure gold. The location explanations that explain how New York has changed since filming are amazing. Also, I really enjoyed his recollections of constantly being “very dirty a lot.” (1080p, 19 minutes).
  • Extended Shower Scene – the shower scene now has nudity from a body double. (Low Grade SD, 1 minute).
  • Dweller Designs – An interview with creature creator John Caglione, Jr. He explains how his career flowed from makeup at Saturday Night Live into C.H.U.D. and how even though the design was not exactly what he had envisioned he is still proud of his work. He also shares a funny story about how hot the actors in the monster suits were due to a heat wave. (1080P, 12 minutes)
  • Notes From Above Ground – A quick tour of the locations in New York where C.H.U.D. was filmed. Makes me want to make another trip to NYC. (9 minutes, 1080p)
  • Audio Commentary – Composer Audio Interview and Score – An interview with the composers Hooper Hughes. Yes. It is two people. Pretty fun if not exactly necessary track.
  • Audio Commentary – Cast and Crew – this commentary between actors John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, director Douglas Cheek, and writer Shepard Abbott is really funny and fun. They obviously had a great time making the movie and have stayed friends. Really, an awesome track.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Gallery – (5:32, HD)

Note: The UK Version also  includes a second disk with the Theatrical Cut of the film.

The Bottom Line

C.H.U.D. has not exactly aged well visually, but the movie is still just as ridiculous and fun as ever. This is the type of B-movie that can be put on at any party and everybody will love it. It is well-paced, not at all gratuitous, and the actors all turn in very enjoyable performances. While, this may not be for everybody, i would argue that most people will enjoy this one. Arrow has provided solid transfers of sound and video, but the video transfer is not going to blow anybody away. Knowing Arrow’s other titles, my guess would be that there was no way to make it look any better. The supplements are all very enjoyable and are topped off with an incredibly engaging and funny commentary from the cast and crew. My recommendation would be that if you have any interest in cult film, there is not much better of a starting point than right here. Kudos.

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