C.H.U.D.

An urban scum outlier released in the height of the slasher boom, C.H.U.D. ain’t a total dud, bringing with it an embarrassment of riches when it comes to acting talent (John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, John Goodman, Jay Thomas).

Still, for most horror heads, this one is best known for its iconic poster, one of the all-time best in the genre, a throwback to what the movie really is: a 50s creature feature, except using a smelly, Bowery/Lower Manhattan milieu for gobs of atmosphere.

As chatty as any horror movie ever, C.H.U.D (aka, Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) features George, a fashion photographer whose photojournalism focuses on the city’s down-and-outs. All the while, homeless people are going missing, something that has not gone unnoticed by a Soho soup kitchen worker, AJ (the wonderful Daniel Stern) who tries to tip off police.

Local NYPD finally gets involved, but only when a captain’s wife goes AWOL, and true to 50s sci fi form, there’s a stonewalling baddy in the form of a nuclear regulatory commissioner who knows more than he lets on.

C.H.U.D. plays upon the urban legend of something living in the New York City sewers a la Lewis Teagues/John Sayles’ wonderful Robert Forster-starrer, Alligator. However, it lacks the biting (sorry) humor and shocks of that one.

The “rubber monsters in a suit” are casually reminiscent of the The Creature from the Black Lagoon, crossed with the “lead demon” in Demons. And they’re pretty darn good. The improbably-named director, Douglas Cheek, keeps the beasts nicely hidden and wisely focuses on understatement and buildup.

For our money though, Street Trash is the king of all bumsploitation flicks, an audacious, grimy, disgusting (and highly memorable) flick, also set in derelict 80s NYC.

Still, C.H.U.D. has held up fairly well. It’s smarter and better-acted than it has a right to be. However, this subterranean horror isn’t done any favors with downtempo pacing.

***(out of 5)

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Alice Through the Multiverse

When we gaze into space, we can see the afterglow of the Big Bang, some 14 billion years back in time to the creation of the known universe. In the theory of “eternal inflation,” though, some parts of the universe didn’t end, creating alternate, or multiple universes (multiverses), infinite in number and perhaps even obeying different laws of physics from the ones we’re familiar with.

In Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Alice Through the Multiverse, protagonist Alice, born in Tudor England, finds herself “in a strange place, interrupted by fragments of a life she had known. And with each waking, a contradiction.”

This place? A psychiatric hospital, present day…where “she had not died, or at least, she had no memory of death…[yet] here she was in another world. Certainly not Heaven, nor did this seem the molten pits of Hell.”

Faithful readers of our site will recognize the name, Brian Trenchard-Smith. He’s the English-Australian film/TV director, producer, writer (and now novelist) who directed the thoroughly mesmerizing Stunt Rock, and the crack action flicks, Day of the Panther and Strike of the Panther, the dystopian/survivalist, Turkey Shoot, and two installments of the Leprechaun series. The beginning of Alice came to him in a dream in 2003:

All I could remember next morning were a few images. A riot overwhelms a medieval execution… A young girl flees through the forest in a blinding thunderstorm… The girl faints… She wakes up in a 21st Century psychiatric institution…

From a narrative standpoint, infinite universes provide novelists with infinite narratives (the fractal on the book’s cover is no accident. These are infinitely complex abstract objects that simulate naturally occurring phenomena). Here, Trenchard-Smith focuses on two: an attending physician who kidnaps the girl, and secret agents who then pursue the duo.

Writers of historical fiction need to get every period detail correct. Even more challenging? Switching between time and place, as the author deftly does here, from posh West London to 16th century Tower Hill.

Alice Through the Multiverse mirrors Brian Trenchard-Smith’s multivariate film career, with elements of espionage, adventure, and international intrigue.

The book is available on Amazon / Kindle and interested readers can take a look at this short trailer.