Your Guy's Got A Camera. Mine's Got A Flamethrower: C.H.U.D. (1984)

A lot of the cinema I encounter defies any sense of my logic as to how it exists in a final form, one that suggest that it was actively pursued and produced with the intent of expecting great success.  For example, while I was washing clothing at the laundromat this morning I noticed that the Hallmark Channel (one of the television staples of this particular establishment) was playing The First Daughter, a particularly underwhelming and indeed quite terrible piece of cinema whose release should never have seen the light of day.  Glancing at the film while far more intrigued by my book on the history of Technicolor, I noticed that everything about the film was half-assed and clearly rushed, exploiting outdated racial stereotypes and the most derivative of romance genre tropes.  The First Daughter should not cinematically exist, but the reality is that it does.  In another world completely is a film like C.H.U.D. whose cult status is undenied and certainly grows over the years, even being the subject of a delightfully irreverent Criterion April Fool's Joke, complete with an "analysis" of the film's many meanings that puts some of my overanalyzing of films to shame.  Watching C.H.U.D., one becomes aware almost instantly that the film is completely and undeniably bad, both in the ways evident of most 80's genre films, but also in terms of very basic filmmaking skills and visual narrative cohesion.  When watching C.H.U.D. I felt very much aware of this factor and kept wanting to dismiss it as one of the failures in regards to the varied viewings I have encountered so far during this, my second, horror film marathon.  Looking for a way to write the film off, I realized that as the creatures began to emerge and as Daniel Stern's acting slowly became more fractured and what could only be described as clear inspiration for Matthew Lillard that I was enjoying the very implausibility of C.H.U.D.  Indeed, even if I were at the point of writing the film off, the emergence of a young John Goodman into one scene pretty much assured its lasting viewing power.  While I gave C.H.U.D. a rather unimpressive three stars on Letterboxd, I still adore its endearing crappy qualities.  It is not a "so bad its good" type of film, but one so terrible in its execution as to allow a degree of schadenfreude to occur in watching it unravel completely.

The film begins with a woman walking her dog down an alley, only to be grabbed and drug into the sewers by the hand of some green creature, thus setting up a film about a monster attack by creatures known as Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers, or C.H.U.D. The creatures, however, are not the main focus of the film, but instead looks at a group directly affected by the emergence of these green fleshy humanoids.  Firstly there is the tense relationship between photographer George Cooper (John Heard) and his model girlfriend Lauren (Kim Geist) one that seems to be a challenge of creative establishment and sexual authority.  Occurring in line with this narrative are the experiences of a police captain named Bosch (Christopher Curry) who is attempting to uncover a string of murders where the bodies of the victims are appearing in the sewers of the town.  Knowing that his best source of information comes from A.J. Sheperd (Daniel Stern) whose work providing food and shelter for the homeless has resulted in his being labeled as The Reverend.  When Bosch explains the situation he is adamant that it is not the homeless population engaging in the attacks, but instead; a group of deformed humanoids who are the result of chemical dumping by the NRC, a group whose work directly ties to nuclear engineering.  The evidence emerges at it is clear that the creatures are indeed former humans whose exposure to toxic waste has led to them becoming neon-eyed monsters bent on violent revenge.  Despite apparent restrictions, the NRC continued to dump the waste, although the leaders continue to deny it as a fact, even when footage and eye witness accounts blatantly suggest otherwise.  Bosch, whose wife died at the hands of the toxic creatures, seeks to bring justice to the NRC, as well as his late wife, whose body is discovered in the mix of the corpses underground.  A.J. begins confronting members of his homeless community who have come into contact with the C.H.U.D.'s while Lauren has her own above ground contact with one of the fiendish creatures, all leading up to Bosch finally confronting the owner of the NRC, in a battle to expose the truth whose results, with the aid of A.J. and George have some rather fiery results.

C.H.U.D. is a film that clearly caves a bit under its own metaphor, hoping that by going for an idea in a big way that the important elements will exist underneath with little or no need for detailed elaboration. This, unfortunately, is not entirely the case and the film becomes almost about a lot of things and never fully about anything, and I certainly do not mean that in the way it has been endearingly appropriated to talk about Seinfeld.  Furthermore, in a perfect world I could write about this film with the same detached absurdity that Criterion did with their faux-release of this film, but they delivered it with such an earnestness that I would be foolish to step on its perfection.  So what could one make of the various almost realized social narratives.  Well there is a rather clear, albeit on-the-nose, connection made between the spaces that become victim to nuclear dumping, usually associated with impoverished spaces that are dangerously close to urban dwellings.  In C.H.U.D. dangerously close means underground, suggesting that cities exist on the exploitation of those below, or those with the least amount of class mobility, even becoming monsters in the eyes of the exceptionally wealthy and association that is, in turn, internalized by those without.  The creatures who occupy the space of monster in the film are clearly a creature within the filmic narrative, but they also carry along with them a metaphorical representation of the desire to attack the oppressive hegemonic structure, as well as the hegemony's own assumption that the lower class is so barbaric and uncivilized as to literally be a bug-eyed monster whose only desire is to blindly destroy the structures and well-established ways of society, never mind that these structures are based solely on economic privilege and social standing.  It is no less noticeable that the figures in the film who most sympathize with the figures of the C.H.U.D. are contingent on their relational attachment to privilege, whether it be Bosch and his particular frustration creatures primarily as a result of his wife's death, but also indicative of his relation to enforcing authority for the hegemony.  In contrast is A.J. whose empathy for the creatures is considerably higher, even when faced with a threat on his life, because he seems to accept and understand that their grotesque nature is very much the result of ill-willed politicians and corporate leaders who have knowingly destroyed the bodies of humans in the name of their own capitalist endeavors and their assured success.

Key Scene:  The what would now be called a cameo on the part of John Goodman.

This is and has been on Netflx for awhile, should you be looking for a late night future, this is certainly a worthy consideration.

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