They’re not staying down there, anymore! Finally making its long-awaited debut on Blu-ray, director Douglas Cheek’s cult ’80s favorite C.H.U.D. (available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video!) is the ultimate underground movie experience. In downtown Manhattan, a police captain’s hunt for his missing wife leads to the discovery of a series of mysterious disappearances in the area. Extending his search into the tunnels and sewers below the city streets, it soon becomes clear that something monstrous is lurking in that subterranean world. Starring John Heard (Cat People), Daniel Stern (Home Alone), Kim Greist (Manhunter) and Christopher Curry (Starship Troopers) alongside an early appearance from John Goodman, C.H.U.D. has justifiably built up a huge cult following in the years since its release in 1984, with one of the most iconic creature designs of the period. This new 2 Disc-Special Edition Blu-ray features a brand new restoration from the original film elements and includes both a presentation of the Integral Cut from a new 2K film transfer and a High-Def presentation of the Original Theatrical Cut both with uncompressed PCM Mono Audio. Extras include an Audio Commentary with director Douglas Cheek, writer Shepard Abbott, and actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry, plus featurettes A Dirty Look with an interview with production designer William Bilowit, Dweller Designs with an interview with special make-up effects and creature creator John Caglione, Jr., the featurette Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations of C.H.U.D. hosted by journalist Michael Gingold and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan, plus a brand new Audio Track featuring isolated score selections and an interview with composers Martin Cooper and David A. Hughes, a Behind-the-Scenes Gallery, an Extended Shower Scene and Original Theatrical Trailer.
I won’t lie – I’m a total C.H.U.D. fan. (That would go for both Cannibalistic Humaniod Underground Dwellers AND Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal!) It was a flick I saw nestled into a secret spot on my parents secret VHS compilation tape and for a young guy it’s forbidden genre fruit proved overpowering. The cool character effects, the seemingly sincere performances and the savvy synthesized score had me from gooey frame one. But over the years I’ve come to appreciate both the more fun B-elements and especially the ‘before they were famous’ turns by the gaggle of leads – C.H.U.D. seemingly and surprisingly gets better with age.
George Cooper is a former fashion photographer who has decided to forgo fame and fortune and is currently documenting New York’s homeless. Captain Bosch is a policeman who’s investigating the disappearance of many underground folks and his own wife to boot. And local homeless shelter helmer A.J. Sheperd has begun to worry when his regulars begin to go missing. All three men from different walks of life end up seeking and discovering the deadly secrets lying beneath the city streets in their various quests for the truth – the truth about C.H.U.D..
I’m trying to give an ominous feel to a flick with about as much subtlety as a Mack truck driving through a Nitroglycerin plant, but there’s much more to C.H.U.D. than simply mutated ugly creatures eating human flesh. Not that there isn’t a good quota of gross (see the C.H.U.D. worshiping at the toxic waste alter!) and disgusting (what the hell is that glowing liquid coming out of its severed neck?!), but there’s a strange companion to the genre tropes fans have come to know and love here – good acting. Enlisting the likes of John Heard (playing the crusading photographer!), Daniel Stern (as the sassy street wise A.J.!), Kim Greist (who kicks ass with a samurai sword!), and especially the impassioned Christopher Currie (his police Captain operates on raw emotion – “My wife is dead because of you, you son of a bitch!”), the cast of C.H.U.D. is far better than the flick deserves and their dedication to their roles is what helps the film stand the test of time. Not to mention that Director Douglas Cheek uses everything from B-movie horror (love the big box street scare!) to humor (see the diner scene with early John Goodman and Jay Thomas is priceless!) to even a haunting score (the main theme is forever engrained in my brain!) to match the constant coolness of his cast – it’s a genre love fest all around.
C.H.U.D. is everything you wanted a horror flick to be before you knew what you wanted. Blood and guts are great, but even a good severed head can only roll so far. Awesome acting can make the difference and C.H.U.D. features creature feature thespians at their bold and bloody best – they make this look good. (The “Integral Cut” features things like extended character dialogue and the reshuffling of the final Goodman/Thomas scene mid way through the film – both versions have pros and cons!)
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Clarity/Detail: For a flick with a lot of night shots and dark places this transfer has crisp clear picture.
Depth: A lot – especially during those dim underground bits.
Black Levels: C.H.U.D. is all about the black levels and their dark glory is in full force here.
Color Reproduction: Not a ton of colors in the sewers, but when they appear they’re fine.
Flesh Tones: So good that even Kim Greist’s body double looks fabulous.
Audio Formats(s): English Uncompressed Mono PCM Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Dynamics: Again with a mono track there’s not a huge pop, but the high pitched music helps in such areas.
Low Frequency Extension: Good hum throughout, especially during the below ground investigations.
Surround Sound Presentation: No surround, but the C.H.U.D can still sneak up from the front!
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue sounds just like it did the day they recorded it.
C.H.U.D. 2-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray comes with both Integral Cut from a new 2K film transfer on Disc One and a High-Def presentation of the Original Theatrical Cut on Disc Two, plus a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford and fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Gingold.
- With Audio commentary by director Douglas Cheek, writer Shepard Abbott, and actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry (very chaotic, but also very candid with the actors claiming they still need to be paid!)
- Interview with composers Martin Cooper and David A. Hughes with isolated score selections (all hosted by Michael Felsher!)
A Dirty Look (SD, 19:11) – A chat with Production Designer William Bilowit who has cool knowledge on his time on-set – plus he reveals he’s the garbage thrower during the blood in sidewalk scene!
Dweller Designs (SD, 12:07) – A conversation with Special Make-Up Effects and Creature Creator John Caglione, Jr. who talks past inspiration (Famous Monsters of Filmland!), extend C.H.U.D. necks, and how the design ultimately came together (he wanted a more human style creature – director Douglas Cheek wanted a ‘monster’!) – good listen.
Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations of C.H.U.D. (SD, 9:10) – Hosted by journalist Michael Gingold and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan (helmer of the great We Are Still Here!) the duo take fans on a tour on the NYC locations. (C.H.U.D. diner alert!)
Extended Shower Scene (SD, 1:24) – You get more of Kim Greist’s face – especially covered in blood!
Also a Behind the Scenes Gallery (SD, 5:32) and Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:36).
A total step up from typical 80’s genre fare, C.H.U.D. remains a potent piece of pop culture cinema and this Arrow Video release is a loving tribute to its existence. From the lush looking restoration to the multiple versions and the cavalcade of impressive extras (the stand alone isolated score audio track is worth the price alone here!) this is a C.H.U.D. fans dream come true. (If your dream features slimy creatures with a hankering for human flesh!)