MARCH 27, 2009
Some movies more or less coast forever on their title alone, and now that I’ve seen it, I think I can add C.H.U.D. to the list. There’s a reason why the word “Chud” gets used in so many Simpsons episodes, but hardly ever accompanied by an actual visual reference to the movie - the movie, quite frankly, is kind of a bore. I have gotten more entertainment out of repeating "Of course you'll have a bad impression of New York if you only focus on the pimps and the C.H.U.D.s." to myself over the past decade than I did in the 96 minutes it took to watch the movie today.
The main problem, as always, is pace. Given its prominence in the film’s title, you’d think the damn Chuds (I’m not going through and typing out the initials with periods every time, deal with it!) would show up more often. It would be like calling E.T., I dunno, after one of Michael’s friends. In the first hour it only makes two brief attacks, and even during the finale it doesn’t do a hell of a lot. Christ, they don’t even kill the obligatory human villain! He gets shot and then blown up by Daniel Stern. Who the fuck makes a monster movie and has Marv the Wet Bandit carry out the movie’s climactic kill???
The human villain is the other problem with the movie, in that he’s in it too much. You know the scene in Ghostbusters where the ‘busters, Walter Peck, and some other guys crowd in the mayor’s office and debate about the public’s right to know and safety hazards and blah blah? Well, a similar collection of scenes take up more than half of this movie, except they’re not funny. For every second of Chud footage, there’s about 10 minutes of a bunch of guys in an office being glib with each other. Exciting. You look at The Stuff, which came out around the same time, and you see how to make a fun (if not exactly action-packed) monster movie when the budget is tight. Christ, even 50s movies had more monster footage.
To be fair, it’s a more character driven movie than most, and well acted to boot. If bad actors were in the roles, the movie would be damn near unwatchable. Stern in particular is enjoyable to watch, as it was long before Home Alone reshaped his career into permanently playing goofballs. And it’s fun to spot all the future stars. The movie offers not one but two future commanders of the Pegasus (John Heard and Graham Beckel), an unrecognizable (read: thin) Jon Polito, an almost as thin John Goodman, and probably a couple of others. It’s not often you watch a mid 80s horror movie, even a big budgeted one, and recognize more than half the stars. But good performances only go so far; you want them to engage in some action!
It’s also needlessly over-plotted. It’s cool to have a few different heroes, but they spend too much of the movie apart. John Heard’s pregnant model girlfriend is a nice damsel, but do we need to see her photo shoot? Do we need not one but two shady guys tailing our heroes around? Even the monster scenes are padded out. The Goodman scene is the worst offender - him and his partner enter a diner, flirt with a waitress, order food, flirt some more... and then when the damn Chuds show up, we jump cut to later on when they’re all dead. Come on, movie, throw us a fucking bone!
The commentary track is far more entertaining. Heard, Stern, director Douglas Cheek, co-writer Shepard Abbott, and 3rd hero (this movie has three heroes!) Christopher Curry all engage in a lively track that’s neatly split between mocking the movie (Stern in particular hates the monster’s design) and reminiscing about making it. They speak quite freely about certain folks (such as the other writer), and point out the future stars with as much surprise as I did (I wasn’t even aware about Polito until Stern pointed it out). In fact, I would suggest just listening to their track even if you hadn’t seen the movie yet - they occasionally stop and watch the movie so you can enjoy some of the endless dialogue.
About a year ago, rumors were circulating that Rob Zombie was going to remake the film (rumors he actually confirmed, just to be an asshole and fuck with the horror sites that didn’t like his shitty Halloween redux). I would actually support such a remake - the whole “New York probably wouldn’t notice monsters” angle is pretty awesome, and totally blown by the movie since New York seems closed throughout the entire thing (all of the street set scenes are devoid of taxis, pedestrians, etc). Assemble a cast of great character actors, beef up the action and the humor, and it would be pretty kick ass. Not to mention possibly live up to the legacy of its own title.
What say you?