C.H.U.D.


31 Nights of Horror (#8) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we look at 80s cult-classic monster movie, C.H.U.D.!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


When a strange series of disappearances and attacks being plaguing a small corner of New York City, it’ll take the unlikely team of a photographer, a lone police officer, and the manager of a local homeless shelter to get to the bottom of this mystery in C.H.U.D.

W.H.A.T.?

C.H.U.D., from director Douglas Cheek, is a relatively well-known cult hit from 1984. But for many whose local video store didn’t have the best collection of horror on VHS–or perhaps you simply didn’t grow up in a time when video stores were still a thing–it might be likely that C.H.U.D., which stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller, is flying low on your radar. If it manages even so much a blip, that is.

And if I were to guess as to why C.H.U.D. has remained a notable if under-watched bit of 80s horror, it might be because the movie itself is fairly uninterested in standing out too much.

A MIXED BAG OF CRAZY

For example, the movie is neither outright scary nor outright comical. The violence and gore and combined screen time of the titular monsters is fairly limited. Despite being an R-rated movie, C.H.U.D. is fairly light on swears, violence, or much of anything else.

But what the movie does excel at is giving us a fairly basic but compelling story and mystery along with relatable, interesting characters.

The late John Heard is perfect in the role of the well-meaning yet somewhat pretentious photographer, George–a man who has no qualms with taking a commercial gig to pay the bills… but who also won’t stop complaining about the vapid cynicism of commercial marketing while he does it.

Daniel Stern shines in his somewhat mellow, subdued take on the sincerely selfless manager of a local homeless shelter, AJ Shepherd, who is more commonly known by his nickname “The Reverend.”

For many, Stern is more likely to conjure up images of his roles as Marv from the Home Alone movies or any of his other more animated performances. But while The Reverend is an integral part of the film, his personality is very humble and reserved. And with such a role–and in such a movie–subtlety and nuance can easily be mistaken for, quite simply and quite often, flat.

Fortunately, Stern uses this as a chance to highlight his ability to get a lot of mileage out of even the most low-key role.

And veteran actor Christopher Curry rounds out our leads in the role of Captain Bosch, a police officer who suspects his wife is among the missing. Curry nails the balancing act of, frightened, desperate husband and professional stoicism. His Bosch is a man doing all he can to maintain his composure in light of a horrifying situation. And never does he comes across as a loose canon waging a one-man war, which is far too often the go-to take on such roles.

BENEATH THE SURFACE

That said, these more nuanced, layered choices in what is, at it’s heart, a monster movie might be the movie’s own undoing.

Nothing about C.H.U.D. outside its promise of some freaky looking monsters screams “horror movie.” Despite us the audience knowing full well that monsters are clearly living under the streets of New York, the movie is more focused on having its characters slowly unravel the mystery of it all. And this emphasis on the human side of the equation means that there’s little time for monsters or scares. It’s a horror movie doing what so few horror movies ever risk attempting: it tells a real story.

But, again, this emphasis on story and characters comes at a cost. And that cost is the heavy reduction of what most people might expect or want from a horror movie. It’s not really scary. It’s not really violent. And the monsters are smartly kept to key scenes, which also means the amount of special effects is also minimized.

So if you’re looking for a more traditional or typical horror movie, CHUD is not going to be for you.

But if you are looking for a fun, enjoyable movie that also happens to be about dangers creatures lurking underground, then you definitely need to take the time to CHILL with C.H.U.D.

The Bees


31 Nights of Horror (#6) | 2017

On this episode of The Nightly Chill:

Cinematico Magnifico continues his search for late-night scares beyond the walls of The Last Video Store on Earth. Tonight, we take a look at the campy and literal b-movie, The Bees!

NOTE: All movies reviewed for “31 Nights of Horror” are currently available to stream in the US via Shudder, a horror-centric streaming service.


As Africanized killer bees spread across South America, American corporations are desperate to make the best of a bad situation by selling the bees’ honey and royal jelly for a premium price.

But when the bees get loose, spreading and mutating across the entire United States, humanity will have to unite if anyone wishes to come out of all this alive in The Bees.

BEE-LIEVE IT

Written and directed by Alfred Zacarias and starring prolific genre actor John Saxon, The Bees is one of the best bad movies you will ever see.

From its atrocious acting, nonsensical plot, painful attempts at action and stunts, and the least convincing special effects this side of an Ed Wood feature, nothing about The Bees should work. It certainly doesn’t do the movie any favors knowing that, in 2017–nearly 40-years after the release of the movie–the decades-long fear of the Killer Bee has, for the most part, proven to be largely unfounded.

And yet there’s something about The Bees that, despite its worst efforts, allows it to be so unwittingly entertaining. The sheer absurdity of every bad line or inept scene of what’s supposed to be terror or the numerous prolonged, hammy fits of conversation makes for a great movie to sit back, take in, and laugh at with a group of friends.

Now, to be clear, this isn’t necessarily a redeeming aspect of the film itself. The movie is bad from top to bottom. Even Saxon’s usually reliable, quality performance gets lost in the flood of stupid dialog, bad ideas, and poor execution.

TO BEE FAIR

Could a better overall movie have been made from the idea of a naturally dangerous but beneficial creature like the bee gaining the desire to attack and kill off humanity? Yes, very much so. And whether or not its sister movie, The Swarm, is that movie is entirely up for debate.

But I don’t think a more entertaining movie could ever come from it.

Because it’s in the stylized, passionate failing that is The Bees that provides such a fun experience. A good story with passable acting would have, perhaps, resulted in a much more dull, too-serious for its own good final product. The movie’s inherent message of “man destroying the environment for the sake of profit” certainly would have come across as far too preachy.

If nothing else, The Bees stands as a testament to the sheer amount of entertainment to be had so long as filmmakers have the necessary creativity and passion to overcome a lack of budget or inherent talent.

So should you and your friends find yourself in the need of a good laugh more than a good scare, The Bees is definitely the movie you should CHILL with and laugh at.

Proteus


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Proteus, a low-budget monster movie from director and (primarily) special-effects artist Bob Keen!


When a small group of shipwrecked drug smugglers find themselves aboard an underwater research facility, they soon uncover an alien being that killed the original research team. And, of course, this creature inevitably picks off the group of survivors one-by-one in Proteus.

A THING OF SORTS

Best summed up as an aquatic version of John Carpenter’s The Thing, Proteus, from director Bob Keen, is an unoriginal bit of 90s camp that no amount of self-awareness can salvage. But while the film unabashedly steals from Carpenter’s classic, it does so in such a way that feels as if everyone were half asleep during production.

Under just about any other circumstances, the film’s lackluster visuals might normally be forgiven due to the director’s lack of experience. However, given that Keen himself is also an experienced special effects artist, one with a resume that includes favorites such as The Dark Crystal, two Star Wars films, and Alien, it is inexcusable that the film’s effects would fail to impress during an old episode of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

And what’s worse is how the cast proceeds to sleepwalk through one scene after the next without so much as an attempt to chew the scenery…which would actually be a significant improvement over what feels like an early rehearsal for a school play.

Now, It should be noted that there is a neat twist to this otherwise wholly uninspired affair, in that, unlike Carpenter’s film, the creature is not just a mindless killing machine that takes on its victims’ appearance. Unfortunately, this point is completely downplayed in any scene where it might have otherwise added some much needed dramatic effect.

SO BAD IT’S…

There’s a lot of fun to be had with bad horror movies. But the best of the worst usually share two things in common: passion and fun. It’s when these movies feel like a lazy attempt to make a quick buck that they fail to deliver.

And between lazy effects, an inexperienced director, and cast seemingly incapable of phoning in even the slightest of passable performances, Proteus is a trainwreck of a production that comes across as both something that nobody wanted to make and something nobody should have to sit through.

This one is easily a NO CHILL.