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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Douglas Cheek|
|Produced by||Andrew Bonime|
|Screenplay by||Parnell Hall|
|Story by||Shepard Abbott|
|Edited by||Claire Simpson|
|Distributed by||New World Pictures|
|Box office||$4.7 million|
C.H.U.D. is a 1984 American science fiction horror film directed by Douglas Cheek, produced by Andrew Bonime, and starring John Heard, Daniel Stern, and Christopher Curry in his film debut. The plot concerns a New York City police officer and a homeless shelter manager who join forces to investigate a series of disappearances, and discover the missing are taken by humanoid monsters that live below the city.
The film was released in North America on August 31, 1984 and grossed $4.7 million. It was followed in 1989 by C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D..
The film opens with a woman, Flora Bosch, walking her dog down an empty, darkened city street. As she passes by a manhole, a creature attacks Bosch and drags her and the dog into the sewers.
George Cooper (John Heard) lives with his girlfriend Lauren (Kim Greist). George, a once-prominent fashion photographer, has since forgone fame and fortune. His current project is photographing New York City's homeless population, specifically those known as "undergrounders", or people who reside within the bowels of the city.
Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry) has a personal interest in the recent flood of missing persons (most of whom are homeless) being reported to his precinct. Bosch interviews A.J. "The Reverend" Shepherd (Daniel Stern), who runs the local homeless shelter. Shepherd believes recent events to be a part of a massive government cover-up and has the evidence to prove it. Bosch's superiors know more than they are letting on and seem to be taking their cues from the overly glib and weaselly Wilson (George Martin), who works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
It turns out that monsters are lurking beneath the streets; beings that were once human, but have been mutated by radioactive, chemical toxic waste into hideous, flesh-eating creatures that prey on the homeless who live in the underground. Given the recent drop in the underground transient population, the creatures have resorted to coming to the surface through sewer manholes to feed. Through a series of events, both George and A.J. find themselves trapped in the sewers, a reporter gets involved (and eaten), and Lauren has a problem with both a clogged shower drain and an unexpected visitor that comes up through the sewer access point that she unfortunately decides to open in the basement of her apartment building. Then, through the dangerous investigative efforts of both A.J. and George, the absolute horror is revealed: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is directly involved in the slaughter that has been going on.
Although the political bureaucracy has forbidden the NRC to transport the toxic wastes through New York because of the large-scale danger to the public, it has secretly been hiding the waste by-products (marked as "Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal") beneath Manhattan in abandoned subway tunnels. Unfortunately, the underground homeless population has been coming into contact with these by-products, turning them into the mutated creatures. It is this secret that Wilson guards to the extent of having a mysterious and threatening lackey disrupt A.J. from making phone calls to the press. This thug then locks A.J. in an underground access tunnel either to suffocate from the gas to be used to asphyxiate the C.H.U.D.s, or to leave him to become their prey. Wilson is clearly willing to kill to protect his employer's secrets—even a cop. Later that evening at a diner, two police officers enter and while the waitress and the two are discussing, the monsters return and attack the diner inhabitants.
Captain Bosch argues with Wilson over how to deal with the threat: Wilson wants to seal the sewers, open up some gas lines, and asphyxiate the C.H.U.D.s despite the inherent danger to the city.
Wilson, after being overwhelmed by Bosch (it is implied in dialogue that Bosch's wife was the woman taken by the C.H.U.D. at the beginning of the movie, while the director's cut has a scene where Bosch is shown his wife's head, proving it was the woman in the beginning) shoots him and drives the truck in reverse aiming for George and AJ, but they escape from the manhole just in time as Wilson pass them over. AJ finds Bosch's gun and shoots and kills Wilson before he runs over them, then the truck explodes as it falls on the manhole, Bosch is still alive and George, Lauren, and AJ are saved.
- John Heard as George Cooper
- Daniel Stern as A.J. "The Reverend" Shepherd
- Christopher Curry as Captain Bosch
- Kim Greist as Lauren Daniels
- J.C. Quinn as Murphy
- Michael O'Hare as Fuller
- Peter Michael Goetz as Gramps
- Sam McMurray as Officer Crespi
- Frankie R. Faison as Sgt. Parker
- John Goodman as Diner cop
- Jay Thomas as Diner cop
- Hallie Foote as Waitress
- Graham Beckel as Val
- Jon Polito as Newscaster
- George Martin as Wilson
C.H.U.D. was given a limited release theatrically by New World Pictures beginning in August 1984. The film opened at #13 at the box office, grossing $1,762,922 with an average gross of $5,686 in 310 theaters. Its second week saw it dropping to #14 at the box office, with a gross of only $834,465 and a worldwide gross of $2,846,756.
C.H.U.D. was released for home video on VHS by Media Home Entertainment in 1984. The film was released on DVD by Lionsgate on January 30, 2001. The company released the film again in 2008 as a part of its Cult Fiction series. Image Entertainment would release the film in 2011, and in 2012, with the later release being a part of a two-disc multi-feature alongside Children of the Corn, Creepshow 2, and House. A two-disk Special Edition was released on DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Video on November 22, 2016.
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Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 23% of thirteen surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 3.9/10. Lawrence Van Gelder from The New York Times stated in his review for the film, "C.H.U.D. makes no pretension toward serious thesis about government or the environment. It is meant to be light commercial entertainment, and in the category of horror films it stands as a praiseworthy effort". Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club wrote, "Perfect for bleary-eyed late-night viewing and pretty much unwatchable at any other hour." Patrick Naugle of DVD Verdict called it a fun film that focuses more on entertainment than deeper issues. Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York included it Time Out's list of best New York-set films, calling it "more funny than scary". Bloody Disgusting rated it 4.5/5 stars and called it "definitely one of b-movies best kept secrets".
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A sequel, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D., was released in 1989. Although C.H.U.D. was negatively received during its initial release, it attracted a cult following over the years, inspired the name of a film website (which changed the acronym's meaning to Cinematic Happenings Under Development), and references to it have appeared in The Simpsons, The CW's The Flash, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Clerks II, Chapo Trap House, Castle, Archer, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Martin Cooper's haunting score was later named number 33 in Rolling Stone's 35 Greatest Horror Soundtracks. The film was also the subject of an April Fool's hoax announcement by The Criterion Collection. In 2007, Rob Zombie was rumored to be considering a remake, and, in 2008, a different remake was rumored to be in production. In 2014, an original, collectible poster for the film was released. C.H.U.D appears in the 2003 video game Tony Hawk's Underground under the name T.H.U.D.
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