C.H.U.D. (1984)

What is it with government officials and acronyms? Why is no new agency or initiative complete until its title is reduced to acronym form? It must be part of lawmaker culture, like choosing baby names and obsessing over each option’s potential nicknames. “Well, I like Nuclear Advanced Defense System but what if people call it NADS?” Politicians probably sit around for hours debating this. I’m sure some staffer got promoted for thinking up an amnesty bill with initials that spelled DREAM.

If I was elected to Congress (assuming the Seventh Seal didn’t split open right then and there) I’d introduce legislation no one could vote against, like a law forbidding serving anthrax in school lunches, and name it the Feeding Anthrax is Really Terrible Act. You can’t be for anthrax, Senator. Looks like you’re voting Yea for FART!

C.H.U.D.? Like the missile?

The story: Hey, more ’80s New York! What a weekend!

Something nasty is lurking in the sewers beneath SoHo. (GAH! Not quite an acronym but still.) Whatever it is, it’s got claws and likes to drag late night dogwalkers into manholes. This is precisely why you do not walk your dog late at night.

Of course the first to feel the crunch are the poor. The city’s subterranean homeless are getting attacked by monsters, but like all problems faced by the disenfranchised, nobody gives a shit. The only square who seems to notice is George Cooper, a former fashion photographer who got sick of the hollow satisfaction of taking pictures of beautiful women and turned his talents toward award-winning photojournalism. MORON.

I'm so homeless, I can't even afford sleeves!

But soon real people start going missing too, which draws the attention of rumpled Police Captain Bosch. He’s had it up to here with his superiors’ insistence on keeping a lid on the disappearances, especially once the disturbance hits close to home. Along with Cooper and a zany soup kitchen proprietor, Bosch means to get to the bottom of things. Zing!

Biggest letdown: With a ridiculous name like C.H.U.D. (I won’t ruin the chuckle-inducing long form if you haven’t heard it), it’s hard not to expect a comedy or at least a movie with its fair share of campy laughs. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a letdown, but it certainly creates an identity problem since the film is played entirely straight. If you can get past the name, C.H.U.D. is actually a fairly competent monster movie, at least until the end. The drama doesn’t really build in a cohesive arc. Rather it consists of a few moments of intense shock or horror, followed by slow, drawn-out talky parts that serve no real purpose. This habit carries over to the ending, or rather the lack thereof. You can certainly draw inferences but there is no definitive answer to the eternal question, “What happened to all those C.H.U.D.s?”

I won't shoot a man in the back. Turn around.

Why you should watch: Most cult classics are movies that were fundamentally unsound when they were made but came to be beloved for either sentimental or ironic reasons. C.H.U.D. is different in that the only part that really gets a laugh is the dreadful title. Outside that you have a rather standard monster movie with a good cast of reasonably committed actors. Daniel Stern is a little hard to swallow at first as the sincere do-gooder, but once he gets the freedom to wig out on some bureaucrats it’s easy to see why he was cast. John Heard is also a personal favorite. I love how a pudgy, unattractive, short guy can so effortlessly and convincingly pull off leading man charm. And if you’re patient you’ll also get a 30-second cameo by a pre-Roseanne, pre-Cohen brothers John Goodman. Even in such a brief appearance it’s hard not to like the big fella.

And let’s hear it for some cool creature costumes, eh? Every now and then they look a little rubbery and awkward but for the most part they’re gruesome and scary. Bonus points for the lightbulbs in the eyes!

You can't overemphasize the importance of regular dental care.

Memorable Moment: It’s short-lived and subtle but I really like the moment when Bosch enters his station house determined to bust this thing wide open. He has a look of grim resolve on his face as he strides with purpose toward his office, synth drums kicking in as he walks. He calls his boss and says he’s on his way over and he expects some goddamn answers. Then he slams down the phone and heads off to assemble the rest of his motley task force. I love mobilization scenes.

Choice quote: “What are you, kidding? Your man has a camera. Mine has a flamethrower.”

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