Thursday 27 March 2014

C. H. U. D. (1984)

I originally caught this back in the day on VHS and I remember being impressed by how smart the movie was, despite seemingly being a bit cheap and disjointed. However it always stuck in my mind as one of the more interesting low budget monster movies of the '80s; the monsters were good, there were interesting, and the plot not only had an intriguing twist to it but also seemed to be reaching to give us some socio-political discourse too! All in all, not bad for a cheapie about modern day ghouls eating assorted hobos and random passersby.

Now from a good while, I was keen to revisit it to see if C.H.U.D. was as interesting as I remembered. Did it had more to recommend it other than not being a poverty row rip-off of either Alien or The Thing, which most cheap creature features of its period seemed to be?  So when I discovered that there was now a director's cut available on DVD from Anchor Bay, well it was high time to venture into the sewers once more.

In fairness, it's been that long since I first saw it on a grainy rental tape I can't really tell you how different the new cut is. But certainly the movie now feels more coherent and seemed to flow better than the VHS version I remember. And certainly there's a vast improvement in picture - while still obviously an *ahem* inexpensive production, the cinematography is sharp and the movie definitely benefits from being in widescreen, giving the movie a visual flair that was cropped out of the pan-and-scan video version I first saw.

So how does the movie stand up today? Well, pretty darn well, it has to be said. Although there is one large caveat to that - which is, if you're going in expecting  a schlock horror fest, the usual mix of scenes of cheese and gratuitous boob shots linking together the oozy splattery monster attacks, then C.H.U.D. will disappoint, and I strongly advise you to find something from Troma instead.

However what C.H.U.D. does deliver is a smart, well plotted and well performed monster movie. Like the old '50s classics, here we have monsters made accidentally by science with the origin of the monsters being a mystery for our heroes to solve. However like '70s creature features there's a strong element of anti-authoritarianism with big business and the government covering up the dirty monster secret. And to bring the production grittily up to date, the extensive guerrilla shooting gives the movie a real world bite that strengthens the tale its telling.

But if all that sounds a little po faced, it has to be said that C.H.U.D. never forgets it's a monster movie, teasing us with little reveals of the titular creatures and the script is sprinkled with enough humour to stop the movie taking itself too seriously but at the same time never undercutting the plotting or drama.

 And the C.H.U.D.s themselves are still a great monster - nice and slimy in that classic '80s FX style and very well realised for such a low budget. Admittedly they are wisely only shown in glimpses for most  of the flick but that just makes their later unveiling all the more fun.

C.H.U.D. might not be a perfect movie, but it's certainly a very interesting and engaging one. There's a sparkle to dialogue and a intelligence in the script that you rarely see in low budget monster movies these days, with so many now preferring to revel in how stupid and cheap they are. And so the likes of C.H.U.D. , a movie made with little money but a lot of wit, intelligence and talent , is a most refreshing blast from the past.

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