27 February 2006 | Jonny_Numb
B-listers battle homeless monsters for food stamps...
"C.H.U.D." is one of those semi-name oddities that always stood out on video store shelves when I was a youth (lamenting the 'parental lock' on all horror movies I so badly wanted to rent), what with the darkened figures congregating around a manhole, eyes glowing white. Years later, I have finally gotten a chance to see the film, and my response is pretty mixed: it lies somewhere between the Land of Campy and the Dominion of Creepy, with some elements of the Retro Rest Area thrown in for good measure. "C.H.U.D." takes a formula familiar to anybody who's seen a '50s 'Big Bug' flick: Evil Guys In Suits are dumping toxic waste where it doesn't belong (in this case, the sewers below Manhattan), thus inspiring some unexpected and unpleasant side effects in the homeless people living under the city--they transform into C.H.U.D.s (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers), reptilian-looking monsters with a taste for human flesh. While the premise is extremely cheesy, director Douglas Cheek teeters the line between camp and horror rather well--not all-out serious nor a straight romp, it strikes a fair balance (the creepily minimalist, synth-driven score helps, too). The cast of semi-name actors (John Heard, Kim Greist, and a wonderfully wiggy Daniel Stern) treat the material at face value, but never wink at the camera, thus engendering a bizarre charm to the events that transpire. Unfortunately, even for a film that plays as fast and loose as "C.H.U.D." does, it leaves a few too many unresolved plot points for my liking. But if you want something a fair distance from the mainstream radar, greased with the grimy spirit of the 1980s, look no further than "C.H.U.D."