Sewer systems are rather scary places and not just because they are filled with human waste. Sometimes lurking beneath the city are rats, alligators, Ed Norton and Harry Lime. In the summer of 1984, theatergoers were given another fear lurking beneath manhole covers: C.H.U.D. While this sounded like an off-brand of dog food, the acronym meant “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller.” This was something that Liquid Plumber couldn’t fix. That’s scary for anyone connected to a sewer system. The film had a bigger impact during the glory days of mom & pop videostores where it’s legacy grew above ground. Now C.H.U.D.: Special Edition arrives on Blu-ray to give a higher definition to the mutants that live where we flush.
A woman walks her dog at nighttime in Manhattan. She’s keeping an eye out for trouble around her since the Big Apple wasn’t that safe a place. But she’s not prepared when a manhole cover pops open and a green arm grabs her and drags her under. Nobody in a city of millions hear her final scream. George Cooper (The Sopranos‘ John Heard) has given up a lucrative career as a fashion photographer in order to focus on the homeless people who live beneath the streets in abandoned subway tunnels and sewer spaces. His girlfriend Lauren (Brazil‘s Kim Greist) is still working as a model although he’s having issues with the whole fashion industry. He is worried about the real people of the city and the fact that some of his “models” have been disappearing. Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry) begins to investigate the vanishings although most are homeless folks who might have just wandered to warmer climates. But a few of the missing ought to have left forwarding addresses. “The Reverend” Shepherd (Daniel Stern) runs a local homeless shelter and fears this is a government conspiracy. He’s gathering evidence that The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is doing something illegal below the city. He’s right because there’s monsters lurking in the dank underbelly. These monsters were once human until they had gotten exposed to toxic elements that transformed them into Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller or C.H.U.D. Even worse for them is that the mutants are wanting to move on up and eat a better class of New Yorkers. It’s up to Shepard, Cooper and Bosch to save the neighborhood from a fate worse than a Staples moving into the neighborhood.
C.H.U.D. remains a engrossing horror film with its reasonable premise of the sewer system being a fertile spot for manufacturing monsters. The movie is gross enough with the C.H.U.D. mutants being nightmare inducing. There’s a simple scene where Lauren is showering and her tubs turns into a bloody mess thanks to the mutants. The battle in the sewer at the end is clumsy enough to feel like guys who shouldn’t be fighting mutants are going the extra mile to stop the influx. The film and the special effects have the same gritty feel of Manhattan during this era. There’s two early appearances by John Goodman (Roseanne) and Jay Thomas (Cheers) as cops although it’s before they were stars so they might not make it the finale.
The boxset contains the theatrical cut (86 minutes) and the director’s cut (96 minutes). The director’s cut is preferred since it includes little moments that help flesh out the characters before they have the flesh ripped off their bones. C.H.U.D.: Special Edition remains a nightmare with the Blu-ray upgrade.
The videos is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer gives off the gritty feel of the lower Manhattan neighborhood and the decaying sewer system. The audio is Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio. The levels will let you cringe as the metal scrapes when the manhole cover comes loose. The movie is subtitled.
DVD has all the features of the Blu-ray.
Audio Commentary features director Douglas Cheek, writer Shepard Abbott, and actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry discussing their time on the film. The gang gives John Heard the business as being mistaken for John Hurt. We learn the true identity of the first victim.
Composer Audio Interview with score lets Martin Cooper & David A. Hughes explain the music. Cooper was a member of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
A Dirty Look (19:11) speaks with production designer William Bilowitt about working in old dirty New York City and the tunnels beneath Manhattan. They built a fake sewer system in a huge loft apartment.
Dweller Designs interviews make-up effects and creature creator John Caglione Jr about his monsters from below. Dick Smith recommended him for a gig at NBC that had him working on early Saturday Night Live and The Late Show with David Letterman. Dick Smith also hooked him up with his assistant.
Notes from Above Ground (9:10) is a tour of the New York City locations which have changed a bit. The manhole is still there.
Behind the Scenes Gallery (5:32) are snapshots from the production. Step by step we see how the monsters were molded.
Extended shower Scene (1:24) is Kim Greist reminding us of a shower that didn’t take.
Trailer (1:36) hints that beneath the city lurks a subterranean tunnel system that’s inhabitants are coming up.
Arrow Video presents C.H.U.D.: Special Edition. Directed by: Douglas Cheek. Screenplay by: Parnell Hall. Starring: John Heard, Daniel Stern, John Goodman & Kim Greist. Running Time: 96 minutes. Rated: R. Released: November 15, 2016.