C.H.U.D. is a great example of how time can play tricks on the mind. I hadn't seen the film since I was a kid, maybe 15, 16 years old. All I could remember was the unbelievably awesome acronym: Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Which pretty much said it all, really. The only other thing I recalled was really bad, tongue-in-cheek kind of humor.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Not about it being bad; C.H.U.D. is pretty awful. But its awfulness stems from its absolute earnestness around the plot. This is a damn serious movie, despite how tacky and cheesy it is at times. And it gets even weirder when you see such stars as Daniel Stern, John Heard, and even a brief appearance by John Goodman, who can't hide his charm even when he's playing a loser cop at a diner for less than a minute of screen time.
For those of you that blocked it out of your minds, C.H.U.D. is about a group of missing persons in the city, mostly homeless people called "undergrounders," who live in the sewer systems. When a cop's wife also goes missing, he begins an investigation involving the head of a soup kitchen (Stern, in full afro mode) and a photographer (Heard) who had made a name for himself shooting a series of photo essays on the homeless. They eventually learn that a bill to move toxic waste through the city was being appealed , and in the meantime the waste has been just sitting there, underground. Slowly the Undergrounders have been turning into vicious radioactive monsters who are no longer content to remain underground. C.H.U.D. is the name given to the creatures in a classified file on the beasts.
There are som gross-out moments, mostly focusing on bodies ripped in half and one scene where a clogged shower drain suddely shoots out a geyser of blood that rivals A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET's classic Johnny Depp death scene. But the C.H.U.D.'s are very much Man-in-Suit types: you can envision where the zippers are. I read one review where they likened the creatures to Sloth in THE GOONIES, which isn't really too far off the mark. Their eyes glow like big orange bulbs, they jump out and pose menacingly before killing you, and in one bizarre case they stretch their necks out in some weird, phallic pose that's outright laughable:
Stern and Heard are both pretty decent considering what they're up against - Heard in particular tries to wring everything he can out of his scenes with his pregnant girlfriend. But that's not enough for a movie tries too hard to send multiple social messages instead of just being scary good fun.
In the end you get strangled dogs, decapitated homeless people, and lots of hands coming out of man hole covers. You find out that C.H.U.D. in fact stands for something other than Cannibalisitic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, but you won't care because in the end that's what it HAS to stand for; it's the best thing about the movie.