Ah, C.H.U.D.. C.H.U.D. (1984) is the archetypal Lazy Sunday Movie. I vaguely remember watching it (probably on WLVI 56, maybe Fox 25) in my room in Carver during early high school.

I rewatched C.H.U.D. for the purposes of this review. I was mildly surprised to find that I remembered virtually nothing about it except: 1.) “C.H.U.D.” stands for “Cannibalistic Human Underground Dweller,” and 2.) chuds have glowing yellow eyes.

That’s not Leonardo. Or Michaelango. Or Donatello. Or even Jackson Pollock. Trust me.

I certainly didn’t remember that the cast included Daniel Stern (of Home Alone, The Wonder Years and Leviathan fame) and a very young-looking John Goodman, not to mention Kim Greist, who I saw a few weeks ago for the first time in Brazil, her second film—right after C.H.U.D.!

C.H.U.D. is essentially an urban horror flick about mutated monsters running around the sewers of New York. I’d describe the plot, but I’m not entirely sure what exactly was going on half the time. I can say that the lead actors appear to be Stern, as a guy who runs a homeless shelter, Christopher Curry as a police captain investigating a series of mysterious disappearances, and John Heard as a photojournalist who somehow gets mixed up in the whole thing (along with his girlfriend Greist). The chuds eat people, the city leaders dither and, in a little political commentary, we find out what “C.H.U.D.” really stands for.

The film is better than its reputation, which may be why it pops up from time to time in other media, including no less than two references on The Simpsons (“The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” and “Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder”—which I only looked up because I can. Thanks Internet!).

John Goodman, seconds before Roseanne.

What I enjoyed most about the film is the design of the monsters (the glowing yellow eyes, while ludicrous, capture both an amusing campy spirit and evoke the real underlying menace of toxic waste) and the aforementioned social commentary. There’s also a good amount of gore and a few decent scares. The climax is a little bizarre, though.

Interestingly, despite its status as the archetypal Lazy Sunday Movie, I don’t have much more to say about C.H.U.D.. It’s a good horror flick—not a great one, but more than serviceable. It’s also a monster movie, and a forerunner of more polished urban horror films like Mimic.

However, the significance of C.H.U.D. in my life should not be downplayed. If I ever manage to have any sort of a notable career as an author, C.H.U.D. may become important as the inspiration for an early adolescent masterpiece. One of the first stories I wrote during my fruitful period between the ages of 13 and 15 was “C.H.E.T.,” which stands for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Education Teacher.” Predictably, the story involved a vat of toxic waste exploding at my high school, whereupon all the teachers became ravenous glowing-eyed monsters. My friends and I armed ourselves and proceeded to butcher the creatures (though more than one of my pals ended up as monster meat).

I think they can hear you, Ray.

In the interests of posterity, I hereby reproduce this Pulitzer-worthy passage from “C.H.E.T.” I’ve changed the names, since originally they were real people’s names. The bolded text, sadly, is part of the original formatting.

When he got there and rounded the corner, he almost screamed. There was a creature lying bleeding on the floor that resembled Mr. Freeman. Its chest was blown open, and looking a little further up, he saw the shotgun that had done it. But a little further up was the real nightmare.

A creature that resembled Mr. Horner was kneeling on the floor, tearing and swallowing flesh off John Blake’s corpse.

Clearly, my future greatness was assured even then.

A few years back I came across this article about a high school student who was arrested for a story he’d written about zombies taking over his school. A predictable event in the post-Columbine world, though it sounds as if the kid is actually pretty intelligent.I shudder to think what might have happened to me had I written “C.H.E.T.” in high school in 2004.

I certainly empathize with his position, having written “C.H.E.T.” with absolutely no personal antipathy toward my real teachers. I was a teacher’s pet during high school. Heck, I remember sharing “C.H.E.T.” with my English teacher. At the time, writing stories featuring my real-world friends was a way to get their interest and attention (i.e., get them to actually read the story). Making fun of teachers is as old as the doodle of a teacher with stink lines or “Joy to the World, the School Burnt Down.” Though I should add, I highly respect teachers in general and think they’re underpaid and underappreciated. That’s why I want to emphasize how relatively light-hearted my story really was—it was a campy romp (much like C.H.U.D.).

  1. Kate left a comment on October 5, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    I think writers should bold the font in their work more often. It heightens the sense of gritty realism in a way that adjectives simply cannot.

    Also: you forgot to mention John Goodman’s pal (next to him in the picture) who was totally on Mork and Mindy. And also Cheers and Murphy Brown…Jay Thomas! That was his name. Ahh, Jay Thomas. I too looked it up BECAUSE I COULD.

  2. I may start using more bolded text in my work. And what do you think of Stephen King’s tendency to use pages and pages of italicized text?

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