Starring John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, Kim Greist, John Goodman, J.C. Quinn, Michael O’Hare, Hallie Foote
Directed By Douglas Cheek
What was it with toxic waste, nuclear ooze, and mutated shit in the 1980s? Sure everyone usually associates the Ninja Turtles with the toxic monster craze of the time, but really they were only one of many. Films like Alligator, The Toxic Avenger, and Warning Sign kind of spawned this influx of toys, cartoons, and video games all showing kids just how much awesome stuff could result from mankind’s general neglect of his environment and a blanket disregard of chemical safety. And shit, who could argue with them? When you are grossing out girls at the lunch table with Madballs and those little plastic garbage cans with slime inside, nuclear waste seems like the coolest fucking thing in the world… Later, in order to completely confuse and baffle our youth, Captain Planet and the Planeteers was thrown into the mix, announcing to us that this toxic shit was no longer cool. Now in 2010, Captain Planet has been off the air for 18 years and counting, while preproduction has just began on The Toxic Avenger 5… you tell me what message ended up resonating more with our youth?
The film opens on the rain slicked streets of Manhattan. An unusually high number of missing person reports have been filed in a specific area of town, with the majority of them being subterranean transients known as “undergrounders”. While most of the precinct is reluctant to take on the daunting missing persons case, a police chief named Bosch undertakes the investigation almost singlehandedly, as his wife is among the people missing. He comes into contact with a paranoid longhair known simply as “The Reverend” who runs the local homeless shelter. The Reverend suspects a massive government cover-up and escorts Bosch into the bowels of New York’s sewer system where the two discover miscellaneous research equipment as well as an abandoned Geiger counter going haywire.
Meanwhile, an ambitious fashion photographer named George is tired with his shallow job and has been dabbling in the world of photojournalism on the side. He has been working on his breakthrough piece which concerns the living conditions of the undergrounders. One of his contacts, a homeless baglady is arrested for stealing a firearm from an officer. She contacts George, who posts bail and accompanies her into the abandoned subway tunnel she calls home. She explains that she wanted to protect her husband, who was attacked by a creature and is dying from a huge flesh wound to his leg.
Fuck. Yes. You just can’t beat a premise like that to soak up battered brain cells like a wet sponge after a hard day at work. C.H.U.D., for all of its flaws (and yes there are plenty), is the perfect film to wind down an exhausting day with. It’s a solid chunk of unsophisticated entertainment that you can just fire up, toss your mind into and receive massive payoff for very little investment. It doesn’t go to great lengths to explain itself, embellish its finer points, or validate its goofy plot. It is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to cinematic zen… it just is.