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C.H.U.D.

Year: 1984
Production Co: C.H.U.D. Productions
Director: Douglas Cheek
Writer: Parnell Hall/Shepard Abbott
Cast: John Heard, Christopher Curry, Daniel Stern

This film reminded me a lot of Humanoids From the Deep, which I also watched recently for the first time. Although history remembers it as a shlocky B movie creature feature that borders on the comic, it obviously had some pretensions about being a serious thriller.

Where a lot of the movies of the era were held back by woeful acting and directing as well as cripplingly low budgets, there's a level of quality here in many of the cinema crafts you just don't see in the grindhouse classics.

It's also a very recognisable time capsule glimpse of New York in the early to mid 80s. Before the gentrifications a decade later it was still a place synonymous with filth and crime, and the aesthetic will remind you of Death Wish or The French Connection.

Also like Humanoids From the Deep, the creatures are a metaphor (as well as the result of) deeper institutional and government corruption. Honest cop Bosch (Christopher Curry, who I recognised as playing Johnny Rico's dad in Starship Troopers years later thanks to his voice) is on the trail of a string of disappearances, including that of his own wife.

He gets what information he can from informat AJ (Daniel Stern looking younger than you've ever seen him), who runs a local homeless shelter and hears stories from his clients of something nasty and possibly evil living in the sewer systems they frequent.

Meanwhile, local artist George (John Heard) is doing a photographic exhibit on the city's homeless and also hears the stories – seeing the grisly results firsthand.

There's also some secretive officials from the Atomic Energy Commission sniffing around City Hall, in cahoots with Bosch's higher ups, and the race is on to figure out what's crawling out of the sewers to kill people before it's too late.

There's enough in the story to keep you interested, and director Douglas Cheek knows how to balance enough human drama with the reason you're really there – to see the creatures. Unfortunately the original trailer gives too much away and the glowing eyed monsters look like cheap The Creature From the Black Lagoon Halloween costumes smeared with melted petroleum jelly – even though the budget isn't non-existent, it certainly isn't high.

It's not as good as it needs to be, but it's not quite bargain basement exploitation trash either.

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