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Blast from the Past: C.H.U.D. 

When? 1984

What's it rated? R

Where's it available? Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes

You probably haven't heard of C.H.U.D., but there's no better time than now to watch it.

click to enlarge UNDERGROUND DWELLERS C.H.U.D. (1984) offers some insight into what influenced Jordan Peele's most recent thriller, Us (2019). - PHOTO COURTESY OF NEW WORLD PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of New World Pictures
  • UNDERGROUND DWELLERS C.H.U.D. (1984) offers some insight into what influenced Jordan Peele's most recent thriller, Us (2019).

That's because everyone is talking about Us (2019), Jordan Peele's most recently released thriller that hinges on one family's attempt to survive a sudden uprising of people who live in the nation's abandoned tunnel systems. It's creepy and thought-provoking, and everyone should see it, but the idea of weirdo tunnel dwellers didn't start with Peele.

In Us, Peele nods to a number of his '80s influences, like using T-shirts adorned with stills from Jaws (1975), Michael Jackson's thriller video, and the Santa Cruz boardwalk, which also acted as the The Lost Boys (1987) set. In one early scene, the camera briefly shows a stack of VHS movies that includes copies of The Goonies (1985), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and, thankfully, C.H.U.D.

The general plot and "vibe" of C.H.U.D. can be grasped pretty easily when you know what the acronym stands for: cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. Give me a phrase that better represents what low-budget '80s sci-fi movies were all about, I dare you.

Despite C.H.U.D.'s reputation as a ridiculous B-movie with a lowly 29 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes (yikes), it's actually a super entertaining film with a few shockingly well-known cast members, including John Heard (Big, Home Alone), who plays George Cooper, a photojournalist who's been following and documenting homeless people living in New York City's subway system for a soon-to-be-published story.

When Cooper hears that one of the homeless individuals he's bonded with, Mrs. Monroe, is arrested after attempting to steal a gun from a police officer, he bails her out and she takes him into the subway system's tunnels. There he finds another homeless individual who is suffering from a massive leg injury. The wound looks as though some kind of animal took an enormous bite out of the man's shin, and Mrs. Monroe tells Cooper she needed the cop's gun to protect herself.

But from what? (Cue suspenseful '80s music that for some reason includes a synthesizer.)

At the same time, local police officer Capt. Bocsh (Christopher Curry), gets a complaint from a man who works in a neighborhood homeless shelter, A.J. "The Reverend" Shepherd (Daniel Stern). The Reverend tells Capt. Bocsh that a dozen of his homeless frequenters are missing, and they're all people who tend to take shelter in the subway tunnels.

Though Capt. Bocsh is ordered to forget the complaint and move on, he takes the case on himself—his wife is missing, too—and unravels a corrupt scheme to dump radioactive, toxic waste into the subway system. Bocsh finds that exposure to the toxic waste can lead humans to mutate into, you guessed it, cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers.

But can these three white dudes save the day? You'll have to watch to find out, but I can tell you that, yes, there are crazy special effects. Yes, there are monsters. There are also both mediocre and hilariously bad performances, and even a very brief cameo from a young John Goodman (Flight, Argo). But most importantly, watching C.H.U.D. gives some insight into the genius of Jordan Peele. Δ

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