C.H.U.D. is the story about how four individuals, a photographer, a model, a police captain and a reverend/soup kitchen worker, all get sucked into a massive missing-persons case that turns out to be a huge government conspiracy involving death, toxic waste, cover-ups and a group of very hungry, sewer-dwelling mutants.
All hail our Chunky Soup God! Praise him!
Like any good monster movie, C.H.U.D. is a piece of social commentary hiding behind a story filled with creative creatures, humorous charms and supple gore effects. The basic gist of the message: society at large would rather ignore problems, in this case homelessness, until the problem comes up to bite them in the ass. In the case of C.H.U.D., the last part of that message is quite literal. The plight of the homeless who live underground has been going on for so long, and been ignored for so long, that the amount of people living underground has dwindled to the point that the C.H.U.D. start looking for victims above ground.
Aw, sweet, I love free delivery.
Naturally, it’s only the disappearance of someone ‘important’, in this case the police captain’s wife, that the issue starts to get looked at. But of course by then the problem has gotten so out of hand that the government would rather do everything in its power to cover it up, rather than reveal it to the public.
The commentary helps give C.H.U.D. more of a lasting appeal, beyond just “Look! Mutants! Rawr!”
Move along, people. Nothing to see here. Please ignore the bloody drapes at the cheese steaks stand.
C.H.U.D. divides much of it’s time up by shifting between four separate characters. Each one plays some sort of role in saving the city. The film switches between the four character’s perspectives, but often lingers a bit too long on certain characters while neglecting others.
For instance, the photographer, Cooper, plays a central role in the beginning of the film, his photographs being the catalyst to spur events into motion. But at some point he gets lured down into the sewers and the film switches perspective from him for so long that I almost forgot that he was down there. I had forgotten about him just as easily as the film seemed to, and that lack of focus is one of the film’s most notable flaws.
To be fair, he probably deserves being forgotten
since he lost Kevin McCallister twice.
The film makes up for it though, with its dingy atmosphere, reveling in the dirt and grime above and below ground. Just about everything about the movie seems to focus on the grungy-ness of NYC, even in the police station and photography studio. The only location given a brighter atmosphere is Central Park, and even that’s covered in dirt. But it all pales in comparison to conditions below in the sewers, where the only thing contrasting the squalor are the few poor, forgotten souls left just trying to survive literally being eaten alive.
Some of them are clearly better at it than others.
All the griminess and social commentary is balanced out thanks to the film not taking itself too seriously. There’s some nice (intentional!) humor in here, along with a bit of comical violence and some good, if not sometimes a little cheesy, special effects. Some of the characters reactions are a little over-the-top, but I’m willing to forgive that, since the movie was gracious enough to give me a ‘damsel in distress’ who was more than ready to use a sword to get the job done.
You’ll notice they’re both making the same face.
And she knew how to use that sword, too. I may swoon.
C.H.U.D. ends up being a fun monster movie with an added dose of social commentary that’s still relevant today. The film looks great, sounds great and is well acted, including half of the adult cast of Home Alone and an early appearance from John Goodman. The film moves along at a decent pace and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The only glaring flaw is that it doesn’t balance out the character’s perspectives enough and it ends up treating the government as both sinister and incompetent (I hate that). But other than that, I still found it very entertaining.
C.H.U.D. is currently available for streaming on Amazon. It’s also received a Blu-ray release from Arrow Video (though it sadly looks like it might be out of print) and is available on a couple different DVD releases.