Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Today on the PCS, the nanobots are taking a spin through C.H.U.D., a 1984 documentary on transients living in the New York underground. The film was cited as a powerful and revelatory look at the plight of the urban homeless in its time, but will its message remain relevant thirty years after its release? Come along, gentle readers, as we explore with scientific precision the delicate latticework of subterranean tunnels sprawled out beneath the Big Apple.
  • The street cleaning sequence: incontrovertible evidence that even knuckle-draggers who went to see low-budget horror films 30 years ago had longer attention spans than we have today. = +10pts 
  • '80s tech alert: Answering machines in 1984 were bigger than laptops are today. = +3pts 
  • Booking your boyfriend with anger management issues as your photographer for a risqué perfume ad goes about as well as expected. = -6pts (Is this why we've never heard of the model "Laura Daniels?" Was this a Thora Birch situation?) 
  • Daniel Stern plays Reverend Pit Stains, the operator of the filthiest soup kitchen in NYC (quite the honor in 1984!). = +12pts 
  • Police Captain Bosch's revelation that the woman abducted in the opening scene was his wife is supposed to humanize him, but it kind of makes him look like even more of a monster, since he tried to keep a lid on this rash of disappearances even after his own wife went missing. = -9pts 
  • Reverend Pit Stains has collected a bunch of equipment left behind in the underground by the EPA and NRC, who apparently hired a bunch of teenage boys to conduct their investigation. = +4pts 
  • Laura announces to her boyfriend George that she's pregnant, which is convenient for him, because otherwise she might still be angry with him for making a huge scene at her photo shoot, disappearing without telling anyone that he was leaving, and probably costing her the job, as well as irreparably tarnishing her reputation as a model. = -13pts 
  • Someday, George and Laura will tell their child the heartwarming story of how mom and dad nonchalantly discussed whether it made sense to abort him or her. = -18pts 
  • Freelance reporter Murphy: so freelance, he can't even afford business cards. = +3pts 
  • This scene. = +36pts 
  • We're all behind Bosch's commitment to wiping out the C.H.U.D.s, but maybe sending a bunch of guys with flamethrowers into a tunnel where you know there's a gas leak isn't the soundest plan. = -4pts 
  • We think the nanobots have definitively solved the age-old question raised during the Cheers pilot about what the sweatiest movie ever made is. = +7pts 
  • Murphy learns the hard way that sometimes you eat the C.H.U.D., and sometimes, well, the C.H.U.D., he eats you. = +5pts 
  • Laura picks a strange time to suddenly decide that she needs to explore the trap door in the basement. = -3pts 
  • Shower scene in C.H.U.D. > Shower scene in Psycho. = +28pts 
  • Holy shit, is that John Goodman falling prey to C.H.U.D.-strike?!?!? = +13pts 
  • Apparently, C.H.U.D-ism is passed by bite the same as zombieism. = +6pts 
  • Laura seems remarkably unfazed by the fact that her shower drain, appropo of nothing, sprayed her with a pressurized jet of blood just minutes before. Like crazy people on the subway and the ever-present smell of garbage, it must just be another part of living in New York. = +17pts 
  • Decapitating a C.H.U.D. with a decorative sword. = +20pts 

  • The idea that the US government would dispose of nuclear waste under the most populace city in America: In 2014, laughably absurd; in 1984, so believable that it might actually have happened. = +9pts 
  • The C.H.U.D.s have been gassed to death. The government cover-up has been exposed. The perpetrator of the crime is dead. It's just too bad that George and Reverend Pit Stains probably received a lethal dose of radiation while wandering through the sewers. = -8pts 
Total Score = +112pts
Available on: Netflix, lead-lined canisters buried deep under the earth beneath New York City

Given C.H.U.D.'s reputation as a low-budget camp classic, we were generally surprised by the quality of the acting and the extent to which the film's many characters were fleshed out and given actual motivations. While it certainly still packs some boffo moments, it was given a lot more thought than movies about mutant cannibal derelicts generally draw (as evident from the producer's account of the film's creation).

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

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