28th Aug2017

‘C.H.U.D. II: Bud the CHUD’ Blu-ray Review (Vestron Video)

by Rupert Harvey

Stars: Brian Robbins, Bill Calvert, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Gerrit Graham, Robert Vaughn | Written by M. Kane Jeeves | Directed by David K. Irving

chud-2-blu-cover

A wave of pure VHS-era nostalgia – with all the associated benefits and drawbacks – awaits in this 1989 sequel to the 1984 B-movie, which was itself a solidly silly monster movie with a great cast (John Heard, Daniel Stern, Kim Greist et al) and charmingly lousy special effects.

This time, the inner city setting is gone in favour of a typical Midwest small town, and the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers are about to run amok at the teenagers’ Halloween Dance. Not that the CHUDs spend any time underground this time around. As the flimsy franchise leans hard into farce, any semblance of the original film’s social satire is forgotten in favour of smart-ass quips and fish-out-of-water comedy.

The amusingly implausible plot sees buddies Steve (Brian Robbins) and Kevin (Bill Calvert) break into a highly secretive medical research facility in order to steal a replacement corpse for the one they lost while messing about in the school’s science department. An accident with a bathtub and a hairdryer brings “Bud” (Gerrit Graham) back to life.

Bud instantly falls in love with the bros’ friend Katie (Tricia Leigh Fisher), and then proceeds to shamble around town like a contagious zombie with an above-average IQ, chomping on the locals. Only the teenagers – with help from a fairly incompetent military unit – can correct their mistake and stop the marauding horde.

Like Dead Heat (the buddy cop flick where one of them is a zombie, remember?) it’s a movie which doesn’t quite deliver the fun its concept promises. Not sophisticated enough to portray Bud as a misunderstood or sympathetic character, we’re basically left watching a middle-aged dead guy lusting after a teenage girl. There are moments when it looks like we’re going to get a cool montage, only for it to fall flat. And there’s even a threat of a Thriller-style undead dance-off at one point, but it never materialises.

The main duo is the familiar, unlikely pairing of nerdy guy and carefree dude. It’s a combination that can definitely work – see Vamp or Night of the Creeps – but only when the filmmakers find the balance between snarky and sympathetic. Here, not so much. The role of Katie is a thankless one, condemned as she is to being merely an object of lust by everyone, including Bud himself. Herein lies the downside of “old-fashioned” sexual politics.

The side characters fare better. Kevin’s deadpan parents are particularly entertaining. “Your mother looked like Humphrey Bogart,” says the wife, to which her husband replies: “My mother never smoked a cigarette in her life!” Then there’s Robert Vaughn, who plays a military commander with a hankering for the good ol’ days, delivering his lines with more ham than a porcine abattoir. And is that a glimpse of Robert Englund I see? Keep your eyes peeled.

Special mention should go to the uniquely ear-gouging music, which ranges from synth carnival weirdness to unlistenable pop rock. The theme song is a stomping piece of echo-snare with desperately rhyming lyrics, and it’s terrible and brilliant in just the way you want. Also, one might consider a drinking game in honour of the shameless Coca-Cola product placement – at one point, even a disembodied head is wearing a Coke baseball cap.

This is an undemanding teen horror, and it’s been done better in a raft of contemporaries, from Night of the Comet to Trick or Treat to Weird Science. Its inherent tameness means there’s not even the gore novelty, pushing the balance toward Killer Tomatoes territory, when you’d rather be watching Return of the Living Dead. That said, it’s comfortingly familiar, moronic fun.

C.H.U.D. II: Bud the CHUD is out on Blu-ray now from Vestron Video.

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