The film opens with a Flora Bosch walking her dog down an empty, darkened city street. As she passes by a manhole, she is attacked by a creature, and the dog is pulled in after her.
George Cooper (John Heard) lives with his girlfriend Lauren (Kim Greist). George, a once-prominent fashion photographer, has since forgone the fame and fortune. His current project is photographing New York City’s homeless population, specifically those known as “undergrounders”, or people who reside within the bowels of the city.
A police captain named Bosch (Christopher Curry) is introduced. Bosch has a personal interest in the recent flood of missing persons (most of whom are homeless) being reported to his precinct. Bosch interviews A.J. “The Reverend” Shepherd (Daniel Stern), who runs the local homeless shelter. Shepherd believes recent events to be a part of a massive government cover-up and has the evidence to prove it. Bosch’s superiors know more than they are letting on and seem to be taking their cues from an overly glib, weasely type named Wilson (George Martin), who works for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
It turns out there are monsters lurking beneath the streets; beings that were once human, but have been mutated by radioactive, chemical toxic waste into hideous, flesh-eating creatures that prey on the homeless who live in the underground. Given the recent drop in the underground transient population, the creatures have resorted to coming to the surface through sewer manholes in order to feed. Through a series of events, both George and A.J. find themselves trapped in the sewers, a reporter gets involved (and eaten), and Lauren has a problem with both a clogged shower drain and an unexpected visitor that comes up through the sewer access point that she unfortunately decides to open in the basement of her apartment building. Then, through the dangerous investigative efforts of both A.J. and George, the absolute horror is revealed: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is directly involved in the slaughter that has been going on.
Although the political bureaucracy has forbidden the NRC to transport the toxic wastes through New York because of the large-scale danger to the public, it has secretly been hiding the waste by-products (marked as “Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal”) beneath Manhattan in abandoned subway tunnels. Unfortunately, the underground homeless population has been coming into contact with these by-products, turning them into the mutated creatures. It is this secret that Wilson guards to the extent of having a mysterious and threatening lackey disrupt A.J. from making phone calls to the press. This thug then locks A.J. in an underground access tunnel either to suffocate from the gas to be used to asphyxiate the C.H.U.D.s, or to leave him to become their prey. Wilson is clearly willing to kill to protect his employer’s secrets—even a cop. Later that evening at a diner, two police officers enter and while the waitress and the two are discussing, the monsters return and attack the diner inhabitants.
Captain Bosch argues with Wilson over how to deal with the threat: Wilson wants to seal the sewers, open up some gas lines, and asphyxiate the C.H.U.D.s despite the inherent danger to the city.
Wilson, after being overwhelmed by Bosch (it is implied in dialogue that Bosch’s wife was the woman taken by the C.H.U.D. at the beginning of the movie, while the director’s cut has a scene where Bosch is shown his wife’s head, proving it was the woman in the beginning) shoots him and drives the truck in reverse aiming for George and AJ, but they escape from the manhole just in time as Wilson pass them over. AJ finds Bosch’s gun and shoots and kills Wilson before he runs over them, then the truck explodes as it falls on the manhole, Bosch is still alive and George, Lauren, and AJ are saved.
C.H.U.D. was developed as a project of my development company, Bonime Associates, Ltd. I had been developing original screenplays and acquiring rights to novels and other source material for possible production as feature films. My wife at the time was an editorial assistant at Random House and someone there gave her the script for a movie called C.H.U.D. written by Shepard Abbott and she promised that she would get me to read it.
At the time, I was getting about ten or more scripts a week and I had to ferret out those that looked interesting from those that were a waste of time to read. While many producers have the scripts submitted to them “covered” (having a reader read it and write up a synopsis and recommendation) and then only read the coverage, I like to read the better submissions myself. However, I didn’t want to read C.H.U.D. because of the way it was presented: The typing was sloppy and the script did not conform to screenwriting conventions and it looked generally like the person who wrote it had not had any training in the fundamentals of writing for film.
I avoided reading C.H.U.D. for a few weeks because I thought it was written by an amateur. However, my wife kept after me to read it, so eventually, I plowed through it. My first thought was that it was a great idea: It was based on well-known urban myths about colonies of people living in the vast labyrinths of tunnels under New York City. The New York Times and other news sources had covered this story and it was in fact true. However, the screenplay needed a great deal of work. There were some characters and some scenes that were very good, but overall, it wasn’t nearly in shape to show anyone. I did think, however, that if certain obstacles could be overcome, it could be a terrific film. I optioned the property from Shepard Abbott and made what is known as a “step deal” for his writing services. This is a deal in which the various stages (or “steps”) from rewrite to second draft, through polish are optionable by the producer, but the producer is under no obligation to continue with the writer to the next step.
As a producer, I had always tried to work very closely with writers. I was always in awe of their ability to face the blank page (or “screen”, today) and to write words that paint the pictures and characters that make a movie. I consider it my job to be the inspirational and directional force that gets writers to dig down deep and deliver their best possible work – in much the same manner as a director does with actors. This comes from knowing the writer’s strengths and weaknesses and playing up their strengths and helping them overcome their weaknesses. It is not uncommon, for example, for me to spend a week discussing a single character with a writer — delving into the character’s childhood and outside-the-plot circumstances that make him do what he does and say what he says. Even if none of what we talk about gets into the script, the writer is better capable of staying true to the character.
I want the writer to know the characters so well that he or she can write dialogue as if the characters are real people whose speech patterns and motivations are known as intimately to the writer as their family and close friends. The writer should be able to say “that character wouldn’t say it that way.” or “that character wouldn’t do that.” I spent quite a bit of time with Shepard Abbott doing this and also discussing the essence of suspense and fear as it is created and managed in movies. I often advise writers of suspense or horror films to watch Hitchcock movies to see how he manipulates the audience by carefully revealing or hiding the danger and how the movie acts as an emotional roller coaster ride for the audience, if it is done correctly.
I also discussed with Shep how certain “monster” films upped the ante by removing any remnant of human motivation from the monsters which make them even more terrifying because it prevents any means of communication with them: The shark in Jaws, the cyborg in Terminator, and the creature in Alien (NOT Aliens, because Cameron made that creature a mother protecting her children – a very human motivation) all of these make the terror more intense because they are depicted as killing machines without guilt, compassion, or reason.
The problem I had with C.H.U.D. was that although Shep seemed to understand what our meetings were about and he agreed with my analysis and suggestions, he had what I thought was a somewhat cavalier attitude toward the process of working with a producer (who had paid quite a bit for his services): I had to wait an inordinate amount of time to get a rewrite done and he often showed up hours late without an apology or explanation and then handed me a “rewrite” that consisted of the original script with notes in the margins that reflected what we had talked about, but very little (if anything) in the script was actually rewritten. I tried several times to get the rewrite that I had asked Shep to do, but it soon became apparent that I could not get C.H.U.D. into shape to present for financing unless I brought in another writer.
This pained me a great deal because, of all the talent in the movie business, I have the greatest respect for writers. I also think that writers get the bummest rap of all. They get little respect from audiences and producers (Sam Goldwyn once said that all a writer does is “put one word in front of another.”)
Writers also have to suffer the insensitivity and often illiteracy of producers who pay them to rework their scripts and force them to degrade their original work, making it inferior to the what the writer had done in the first place. (In television, most producers are writers, and that may be one reason why today, television is consistently better written than movies). Of course, I consider myself a “writer’s producer” and share their sensitivity, I like to think, but some may disagree.
In absolute desperation, I went to Parnell Hall, a writer who had worked with me on several projects that I was developing including many original screenplays that I had optioned from him. Parnell flat out refused. He didn’t care for the property all that much, but the real reason was that Parnell hated the idea of working on another writer’s screenplay. I begged and pleaded. I implored and cajoled. I finally said that if Parnell wouldn’t do this, I’d get someone else to do it because Shep had not been able to do the rewrite I was asking for. Finally, Parnell agreed.
When Parnell’s first distribution daft was completed (I should note here that this involved several drafts over a period of about a year), I was finally ready to submit it for financing and distribution. I first brought the script to IFI (International Film Investors). At one point during our discussions with IFI, we approached Richard Compton, a director who had done a film called Macon County Line. Richard did several drafts with and without Parnell Hall and took the film into many different directions that we later dropped.
The first thing I did was hire Bob Bordiga to be the Production Manager. I had worked with Bob on an ill fated little film that I was supposed to direct, but that fell through (it was one that I had been hired to direct, but not one I had developed. Interestingly, it had been written by Parnell Hall. That’s how I met him.)
Bob was a very talented project manager who was known for tightly controlling productions and for doing thorough and realistic budgets. Bob was an expert in low budget production and his creative deal making got C.H.U.D. made for the money we had in the bank (some distributors in Cannes later estimated that the film had cost $8 million). It was Bob’s budget that I presented to the investors. I knew that filming a low budget feature in the middle of (and under) New York City would be a very challenging enterprise. I felt that if anyone could do it, it would be Bob. I told Bob that I wanted to make all the deals up front. I did not want to try to get away with filming and hoping the unions didn’t find out. I wanted all union deals including Teamsters to be made ahead of time. Bob set about to interview the crew and we started looking at camera reels for Directors of Photography.
My concept for C.H.U.D. was of a high quality and stylish sci-fi film like Alien. I never intended it to be overly campy or look like a low budget horror move. I had originally budgeted the film at around $4 million and I had discussions with Dan O’Bannon, the writer (with Ron Shusett) of Alien. Dan helped me conceptualize a look for the C.H.U.D.s and recommended that I get in touch with a San Francisco director and comic book artist named Tim Boxell. Tim was working as a director at a SF special effects house called Colossal Pictures, but he was best known for a comic book called Commies From Mars and another called Slow Death.
Tim’s C.H.U.D.s were extraordinary, but very expensive to create, and more importantly, took too long to develop because they would have involved a lot of cable and hydraulic work. Similarly, several other designers gave us extraordinary designs that could not be implemented under our budget and time constraints.
We hired John Caglione to create the C.H.U.D. FX makeup. John had done several horror films and was part of the Dick Smith crew that had worked on such great makeup effects as The Exorcist, Little Big Man and The Godfather. John himself had just completed Amityville 3-D. John told me that he could not do anything more than a latex full mask and arms in the short time we had, so we had to throw out a lot of great designs by Tim Boxell and others.
C.H.U.D. was a lot of fun and yes to me it was a full-blown nod to those great campy 60’s movie monsters I grew up with. It wasn’t so great for the actors who had to wear the heavy foam rubber suits because we shot during a major heat wave in NYC and we had to keep the oxygen and AC nearby. Some of the C.H.U.D.s were dropping off like flies on that one. – CAGLIONE
I worked with John to try to do the best we could with the limited time we had. We devoted a great amount of the budget to the C.H.U.D.s, but it was time that made things difficult. I remembered the original movie The Thing in which James Arness plays the title role in almost no makeup. They were able to make that work by showing very little of the creature and achieved tremendous suspense by just implying that it was approaching. I thought we could do that with the C.H.U.D.s, but it was something that needed to be conveyed directorially. The idea was to have the makeup but rarely show it. This was a very difficult thing to do because you don’t want the audience to feel cheated. We created the Geiger counters to give us the effect of the C.H.U.D.s being near and coming closer, but we never were able to make use of that effectively.
The special makeup for this film about subterranean New York monsters spawned by toxic waste was divided into two categories. Caglione and his crew worked on the CHUD monsters, and Ed French constructed the ravaged victims. Caglione’s work was based upon CHUD concepts designed by illustrator Tim Boxell.
Tim Boxell had been commissioned by producer Andrew Bonime to do several illustrations that would define all aspects of the CHUD anatomy. When Bonime showed these designs to Caglione, the makeup artist felt they were “great Illustrations-very powerful-looking creatures, but they presented some practical problems. Some of the sketches.” says Caglione, “were tough to reproduce with makeup because they were pretty far removed from human anatomy. with the time that we had and the money that we had, we couldn’t get into real sophisticated, mechanical creatures that might possibly be needed for some of the concepts that Mr. Boxell came up with, What we did with pick and choose certain parts of the Sketches and put them together into something that could be applied to actors, We had to tone some things down and bring them closer to human anatomy.
Caglione would have liked to have made full-body suits for the CHUDs once his design was sufficiently streamlined, but once again the short schedule placed restrictions on him. Instead, he and his crew made CHUID heads and arms, and then completed the picture by padding out the CHUDs clothing. Even this, though, was a massive job that required a lot of teamwork, Caglione sculpted the four monster heads and one seat of arms, and his work was then followed up by David Smith and Doug Drexler who sculpted the gruesome, taloned arms and hands. The mold making based upon these sculptures was then handled by Smith, George Engel and Drexler. Drexler also did one of the victim makeups, a particularly nasty bite on the leg of the subterranean named Victor. Once it came time to go on the set, Caglione supervised the makeup costuming of the CHUD actors with the assistance of Joe Cuervo.
In the last reel of the picture, Caglione’s crew was also responsible for some mechanical makeup effects. A CHUD is loose in an apartment and soon corners leading lady Kim Grist. The monster’s neck stretches wildy, only to be sliced through by a sword in the hands of the heroine, and the decapitated CHUD head then shows it still has some biting life left in it Kevin Haney, who receive a separate credit for makeup animatronics was in charge of the mechanics for this sequence and was assisted by Richard Dean. Caglione says that in order to create the neck stretching effect, a heard-and-neck creation had to be made out of a material called Skin Flex, a new form of urethane rubber that when combined with a plasticizer, was capable of great stretchy resilience” says Caglione. They wanted to see that head stretch way off the body. Inside the Skin Flex there were little air rams that made the lips snarl, and then there was a metal armature activated by a lever that would stretch the neck out. So it was a combination of air and metal mechanical parts that operated it.
The C.H.U.D. neck stretching was supposed to provide an aspect of menace for the C.H.U.D.s that hadn’t already been shown. Admittedly, it didn’t make a lot of sense from any realistic point of view, but I felt that by that time in the movie, we needed something to prolong the terror besides having the C.H.U.D.s just stand there and threaten Lauren. I had thought of the teeth extending in Alien. After we had already seen the effects of the C.H.U.D.s, I felt we needed a climactic scene that was unusual and scary. It was a bold attempt that I think didn’t work as well as it could have, but some audiences found it amusing.
One of the more outstanding features of the CHUDs is the effect used for their eyes. As they prowl through the murky subterranean world that exists quite apart from the above ground New York City, the glowing eyes pierce the underworld darkness. This effect was created by the camera crew through the use of Scotchlite and a beam splitter. Scotchlite, as Caglione points out, was a material used on Blair Brown’s Cracked suit in Altered States. In the case of CHUD, the creatures eyes were painted with Scotchlite, and abeam splitter was fixed to the camera, The lights were shone on the beam, splitter which directed the light toward the eyes; the Scotchlite then bounced a glowing reflection back toward the camera lens.
DIRECTOR AND CAST
After the money was raised, Shep Abbott said that he was friends with actors Danny Stern and John Heard and that they might be interested in doing the film for scale. I was a very big fan of both Danny and John. Danny had been brilliant in Diner and in Breaking Away. His career was literally taking off: He had just done Blue Thunder for a major studio. John had been amazing in Cutter’s Way. They offered to do the film for scale plus deferments and profit participation (which meant that my budget could accommodate them) if I agreed to two things. I would hire another unknown actor named Christopher Curry, and I would hire a director named Doug Cheek.
This presented problems because I would then have to go back to the investors and tell them that I would not be directing the film. The Chris Curry issue was not too much of a problem because we had always planned to use unknown actors anyway. I just thought that Chris was not right for the role he would play, but I could live with that if it meant getting Danny and John.
The real problem was the directing. Doug Cheek had not done a feature film so I had nothing on which to evaluate his work. I looked at some documentaries that he had edited and Doug was a very articulate man and I thought that I would be able to get along with him and that with help, Doug could be an effective director.
Doug had primarily been an editor and I thought this would be valuable because it meant that his scene coverage should be good and we would at least have the right material to work within the editing room. I also thought that the actors wouldn’t want to let him down since he was their friend and so I decided that the film and the investors would be better served if we had Danny and John in the leads even if this meant my stepping down as director.
I convinced the investors that I would still control the production and that I would still be able to control the creative direction so that the investors could count on me still delivering the film I had promised them.
One problem we had though, was with the role of Lauren, the female lead. Bonnie had brought in an actress named Elizabeth Burr. Elizabeth did a stunning reading and had us all in tears. We offered her the part, but later, Doug Cheek told me that John Heard didn’t think the chemistry was good with him and said that we had to retract our offer. Kim Greist was later cast in the role.
Daniel Stern remembers C.H.U.D.
Daniel Stern: Now that was a genius movie. That’s a movie that we put together, just friends. Everybody in it was a friend. Our friend [Shep Abbott] wrote it. He had the idea for C.H.U.D. John Heard, Christopher Curry, and I starred in it. The director [Douglas Cheek] was a friend. And that part of the reverend wasn’t even in the original script, but I wrote it. We wanted to do this movie together, and there wasn’t really a part for me, so I helped write that part into the movie. So it was sort of a custom-made part for me.
It was just a blast. I mean, a summer in the sewers of New York? What better way is there to spend your summer? But we got to make our movie, you know? And if you look at it now, it’s got Jay Thomas showing up. John Goodman shows up. It’s just our old buddies, and it was really guerrilla theater at its finest for us. And the part was great. I mean, I got to go climb through the sewers and find the bad guys and shoot a gun. I blew something up. I don’t know—it’s just a good, action part. And in the end, once we’d done it, the producer… Now, it has these weird monsters in it, right? These bad, slimy creatures. But when we shot it originally, there were no green monsters in it. The people who turned to C.H.U.D.s were just actors who turned into cannibals. But then in order to sell it as a horror movie, they added in these terrible slimy things. It wasn’t quite what we’d wanted to make it, but the experience of making it really showed me how to make a movie. That was the first time I’d been on the ground floor of writing it, and the director was a good friend, and Claire Simpson, who’s turned into a world-class editor—I got to sit in the editing room and help her go through it. So that was a great learning experience, too.
Plus, it gave the world one of the great acronyms of pop culture.
Daniel Stern: When Shep—the original writer—said “C.H.U.D.,” we just said, “What’s ‘C.H.U.D.’?” We had a stencil, and we went around New York and just sprayed the word “C.H.U.D.” Because it was just such a hook kind of a word, you know? Everybody wanted to know what “C.H.U.D.” was. And when we were writing it—it was “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers,” but the plot point we added was that it was actually the disposal site: “Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal.” That was the secret of C.H.U.D. They did a C.H.U.D. II a few years later. What was it, Bud The C.H.U.D. or C.H.U.D. The Bud? Something horrible.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Parnell Hall came up with the alternate meaning of C.H.U.D. because he felt that the original meaning (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) was just too comic and that it doesn’t give us a real villain except to say that these poor souls who lived under the city mutated into monsters who ate people. If we could make the real villain everybody’s favorite — The government, then we could up the ante later in the film after we already “knew” what C.H.U.D. stands for. This proved problematic because our actors had taken over the movie (Danny sometimes showed up on the set with script pages he’d rewritten to give out to actors without consulting with either me or the writer). Danny had decided that he wanted control over his character. That was fine and frankly, we all believe he did a terrific job with it. We gave him complete control over his character, but we needed to maintain the important plot elements. Danny and John improvised the scene where they find the boxes, not following the script, as well as several other scenes in the movie, so at that point in the movie neither Danny nor John had heard the first meaning of C.H.U.D., so finding a second one wasn’t a revelation, even if they had seen the box with C.H.U.D. stenciled on it. And it took recording wild lines in post production and the panning shot of the canisters to put that plot thread back.
The shower scene is admittedly a typical horror movie staple, but there was good reason for it: It shows the heroine’s vulnerability and, as Hitchcock proved, it scares the audience because they know something is going to happen, but they don’t know what or when. We thought that if blood were to explode from the drain at just the right moment after building tension to unbearable levels, it would provide a very shocking and entertaining moment. It was never intended to be salacious in any way. The scene was written so that no nudity would be shown, but that there would be a suggestion of it by having a camera move down while the actress turned in a way that would not reveal anything but would prove that the character was in fact nude (and therefore vulnerable).
Kim Griest, who had signed a release for this refused to do the scene without a bathing suit, spoiling the camera effect, so we ended up using a body double. The whole scene was not shot the way it was described in the script and was not as effective as I had envisioned it, but I felt it was good enough to put in the movie. I have heard that some people think that I insisted on this scene for salacious reasons. I hope that is put to rest here. One reviewer of the film said that this shower scene is a clever homage to Hitchcock because the blood comes up from the drain instead of going down. If it was, it was unintended. We show ceilings but we never intended it to be an homage to Citizen Kane.
The film was shot during the very hot summer of 1983 on location in New York. Some key locations were:
Under the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge: There were vaults created for the building of supports for the bridge approach that had been intended to be used for storing the gold from Fort Knox. When the U.S. government decided against that, the vaults were used for storing champagne. There were frescoes on the walls from a champagne company still visible when we went down there. It was hot, dusty, and dangerous – bricks fell and the city eventually sealed it up. We were the first and the last to shoot there. (The flame thrower sequence was shot there.)
C.H.U.D. Studios at Broadway and Grand Street: We took a three month lease on a block square loft that we sound proofed and used for offices and to build all the sets. One set was the subway tunnel that looks more realistic than the real ones we shot in. We used curves in order to mask the short length and we used Styrofoam etched with acetone to create the brickwork. Finally, we used horsehair carpet padding over plastic which we wet down to create the muddy river of crud that flows through them.
Andrew Bonime Interview
What can you tell us about the plot of CHUD at this point?
Andrew Bonime: In the opening scene, a woman is walking a dog late at night. She walks by a manhole cover which flies off and this green slimy hand grabs her by the leg and drags her and the dog back down through the manhole. If that were a scene from one of many recent splatter movies, that woman wouldn’t be important, she would be just a set-up victim, like any one of the 18 other girls in the sorority. In this picture she is the wife of the cop who is leading a big investigation and who is being told by one of his superiors not to investigate any of the several murders in that area. He confronts this man from Washington and finds out that every year the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducts a probe under the city to find out about radiation problems. Usually it lasts around two weeks and they leave; this year they’ve been there six weeks and they’re not only staying, they’re increasing their numbers. There’s obviously a cover-up going on.
John Heard plays a photographer. He has a type of identity crisis that a lot of us go through in life. He’s been making a fortune shooting fashion ads which he considers garbage. By the time the story opens he has decided to give it up, he’s decided he doesn’t want to make that money any more. He’s become a devotee of the underworld, the netherworld, the people who live on the streets, his friends are bag-ladies and bums whom he’s done photo essays on. He considers them more real than the artificial, plastic Madison Avenue stuff. Then some reporter says to him, “Yeah, you’ve been filming them for six months and they’re still there-what have you done for them?”It turns out that Heard knows something that can help the reporter in figuring out what’s going on because he knows his way around under the city.
The cop comes across an ex-con that he busted years ago on a petty charge who now runs a soup kitchen and feeds all these derelicts. The ex-con also notices something strange; he deals with some people who live above ground and some people who live below ground, and the people who live below ground for some reason aren’t showing up anymore. He and the cop start out as rivals and then develop a relationship during the film as they look into the disappearances.
At some point they all get trapped down there, and a man from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is concerned, more than with anything else, with keeping this whole thing quiet because he doesn’t want anybody to find out that the government has been storing this toxic waste down there. In the meantime, the photographer’s wife, who has just moved into this apartment with him, has her own hell to deal with: there’s a trap door in the cellar that leads into this underground system and one of the creatures manages to get into the apartment. So you can see it’s got a lot going on. It’s unusual. People say horror movies are out. Sure, if you ask someone to write a script in 10 days and hand over 18 girls and a maniac; if you call that a horror movie, then I think it’s true that horror movies are on their way out. But CHUD has nothing to do with that. This is political: the idea of the government storing nuclear wastes under our city. It’s real: there are people living under our cities. And it’s a primal fear.
As you’ve no doubt been told, CHUD seems like a very unusual title. Are the rumors correct that you may be changing this title when the film is released?
Andrew Bonime: I am going to go with CHUD unless I am absolutely arm-twisted out of it by the distributor. The title has tested out very well in the past four years that I’ve had the project. I tested the title with the line: “CHUD—You Won’t Want to Know What It Means.” Which is exactly the point. People say, “CHUD: What does it mean?” Because of the type of film that it is, an expensive looking film and an expensive concept; we’re not dealing with a run-of-the-mill monster, we’re not dealing with a maniac with a knife in a sorority. I don’t think there are any characters in the film who are simply there to get chomped on. Every character interweaves the story. It’s a high quality kind of picture and the alternative titles would be things like Creatures from Beneath the Streets, or Terror From Below-that just Sounds to me like Godzilla 1980. CHUD also, intriguingly enough, means two things. It’s an acronym and if I gave you the first acronym it would be like the titles I just mentioned, because originally, when the script first came to me, CHUD stood for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. If I were to say CHUD stood for that then I might as well go with one of these other titles. We kind of make fun out of the fact that one of the characters says that that’s what CHUD stands for; in reality CHUD stands for something far more frightening. It stands for Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal, and that’s really what the movie is all about. The film is about two things that are facts, and the story is just three rungs up the ladder from those facts. Fact one is that there are huge colonies of people living under the city, and it’s not subways, it’s not really close enough to the average person for him to see these people; they may see some of the peripheral ones hanging out in the subway stations and in Grand Central, but there is a labyrinth of tunnels far deeper under the city, originally housing the city’s steam tunnels and some of them are almost archeological digs. As a matter of fact, one of our locations was at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge which has not been opened for 100 years. It was designed originally to support some of the underground support structures for the approach to the bridge. There are caves and arched ceilings—they look like medieval castle dungeons and they all interlock. There’s a series of them under Central Park, there’s a series of them under the Bowery and, mostly during the winter months, there are people who live down there, largely because it’s warm.
The United States government was supposed to finally come up with a storage place somewhere in the United States for industry to dump its radioactive, toxic and biological wastes, because the restrictions they’ve placed on industry have forced a rebound. Industry has now said, “Okay, you’re not going to let us do X, Y and Z with this stuff, you tell us what we can do with it.” The government has basically been dragging its feet as far as coming up with a place where nuclear wastes could be stored. So fact number two is that the United States government has been toying with the idea of storing waste in some of these underground caverns beneath the city of New York. Now, I have no proof of this; the closest we’ve gotten to proof is that they have lobbied for and gotten approval for transportation of nuclear waste through New York City. Another interesting thing came up when we were researching the film; we wanted to find out what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission people wore when they went out on environmental checks; when they found out where we were going, they said, without going into any specifics, “If you’re going to be down there, you better be wearing these protective suits.” So, we were a little scared about that.
We took the two facts and mixed them up and tried to come up with something that’s rather intriguing, and you have the idea that maybe some of the people who live down there have been playing around with anything from recombinant DNA to radioactive waste and they might have been transformed into some rather unique creatures. That’s the lecture part of it. What we’ve done is avoided at all costs the usual science-fiction film cliché of a man in a white lab coat against a blackboard saying, “This is how it all happened…” Those facts remain in the film and they make up the superstructure; from that point onward I have one object and only one object in mind, and that is to make the scariest film ever made.
I have studied every film that I have been able to lay my hands on, the ones that work, even ones that are not in the genre about things from outer space, films like Psycho the best of them. And I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly what it is that works, studying Hitchcock’s techniques, studying techniques that Ronnie Shusett and Dan O’Bannon have worked out in films like Alien and, films Blue Thunder, as well as Jaws, and tried to see what are the elements that really make it work and how can we pack into 90 or 110 minutes the biggest, most frightening scares that we can. And then I wanted to go one better.
On the other hand, a lot of us live in a place like New York City, if you look at it as the quintessential urban environment. And there’s a lot of stuff to be scared about in New York City and in all of the cities. First of all, we always walk over these gratings and we always see steam coming out of manholes; there’s the concept that we live on top of something and we don’t know what in hell is down there. The point is: whatever is down there is something we don’t know about, and if we don’t know about it, it’s scary.
Another thing to consider is real crime. We hear stories everyday of people getting mugged on the subway or getting held up for money in Times Square. That’s not the really scary experience. That’s just economic crime. That’s the drug addict trying to support himself, and the second he says “Give me your money,” you are negotiating. You can say, “I’ll give you my money you give me my life.” The scary thing I’ve been hearing recently is much more frightening than that, and that’s the people who say to you, “I’m going to kill you.” You say to them, “IIL give you my money.” And they say, “I don’t want your money. I’ve got a knife and I’m going to kill you.” That’s all they want! There you have the same thing at work that’s found in the shark in Jaws, the creature in Alien, the maniac in Halloween—the soulless, totally amoral, irrational menace. There’s a similar line in every one of those movies: Dreyfuss in Jaws says, “It does nothing but eat, swim and make baby sharks.”You can’t negotiate with the shark. The creature in Alien is described by the robot as the perfect survival machine, unhampered by human morality. Donald Pleasance in Halloween says of the killer, “You look into his eyes and there’s nothing.” That’s what I tried to capture in CHUD. I tried to say that what’s under the city is that which we are ultimately afraid of because there’s no reasoning with it.
How did you go about supervising this film once the production was underway?
Andrew Bonime: I consider, as a creative producer, my main job other than getting the money together to do it in the first place is to be the representative of the audience during the filming and the editing. Everybody wants to be creative, everybody wants to make their own contribution, but nobody is generally there saying, “Okay, I’m sitting in the audience watching this—what am I feeling?” Because if the director wants to do something artsy-craftsy, and I feel as a member of the audience that it’s time to go out and get some popcorn, then I don’t want it. And I’m on the set every minute. If the director wants to direct a love scene or what I call a walkie-talkie informational scene his own way, then that’s generally fine with me, provided he doesn’t lose any plot points. Very often a director decides he wants to do something a certain way, an actor has a suggestion—so I always have the writer on the set with me for every frame of film that is shot and in the editing room also. With a film like CHUD, there are four or five plot threads interweaving, and it’s easy to lose one of them totally by leaving out one line of dialogue.
On your site you go into detail about the long writing process of “C.H.U.D.”… did you ever think about just picking it up and finishing it yourself? Have you ever had any aspirations to write?
Andrew Bonime: No. Writing is a very scary proposition for me. I work with great writers (mostly), or writers who have the capability to be great, but who need to have their talent unlocked. I generally come up with the idea, work out the characters, including back story, set the tone, develop the theme, and hammer out the details. Sometimes, I’ll even come up with a line or two. But then I send the writer home to face the blank screen. That is lonely work. I once wrote a book (nonfiction) called “Writing for New Media” and it was like having homework every night for a year.
Douglas Cheek and Chris Curry were hired as a stipulation to getting John Heard and Daniel Stern… now that it’s all said and done, do you think the film would have worked without them?
Andrew Bonime: Absolutely. I’m a big fan of material. If the story is good, all you need is a talented bunch of people to put it over. But it’s all a matter of what you mean when you ask would it have “worked” without them. It would have worked, but it might not have sold as well. Signing known talent tells the distribution machinery that you’re serious and that this is a film they should take a look at. It’s like when the Salkinds paid Marlon Brando several million dollars for a few days work on the original “Superman”. They didn’t NEED Brando for that part. But by having him and paying him so much, they were telling the distributors that they were serious about making a quality film.
But in all honesty (that’s what you want, right?) the FILM would have been better if we had actors who stuck to the script. The changes forced on us by Danny Stern and his acquiescent director made the film less intelligible and, in some places, incomprehensible. Parnell Hall is the real talent. He took a germ of an idea from the original writer and made it into a compelling mystery/action/adventure piece. Very little of this remains on the screen, however.
Who’s your favorite character in CHUD?
Andrew Bonime: This will surprise you: I think that Danny Stern created a quite interesting character (the Reverend, or “A.J”) who gives the film an energy that it might not have had without him. He IS fun to watch. He was hell to work with, however. He used to show up on the set and give new script pages to everybody without consulting with me. The real problem was that he rarely understood how a changed line of dialogue on page 22 affects a plot payoff on page 78. There were two minor characters who gave terrific performances: The character of Val (Graham Beckel), the maniac who goes into a rant from Revelations in the Bible at the soup kitchen was so scary, I jumped back several feet when he did the take.
Also, George Martin, the evil NRC commissioner kind of made me laugh. We have loads of outtakes where he choked on the line “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.” George is a fine stage actor and he had trouble getting out those words. It reminds me a little of John Gielgud in Arthur. Jack Rollins, one of that film’s producers, told me that Gielgud never got the humor and didn’t realize he was being funny. Similarly, George didn’t get the campiness of the line and had a lot of trouble saying it with a straight face
You went through many, more complicated CHUD designs before the final look was reached… are you happy with the way the creatures looked in the end? Is there anything you would have changed?
Andrew Bonime: No! They suck! But it isn’t the fault of anyone. Especially John Caglione who did the creatures. Oddly enough it wasn’t the budget. It was a simple matter of time. If time precludes cable work or hydraulics (remember this was way before CG became feasible in a reasonably budgeted film), what you’re left with is foam latex. I had amazing designs but we couldn’t execute them in the time we had. I plead guilty to the neck extension/sword cut off scene. I took a lot of hits for that, but I felt that by that time in the film, we had seen so many of the creatures that we needed to up the ante. We needed to have them do something we hadn’t seen yet, so we bet the farm on that. It does look cheesy, though.
One thing I’d like to say at this point is about the budget. I had originally envisioned the film as being in the league of Alien. I had it budgeted at a similar scale. I spent four years trying to raise that money and failed. So when my financial partner said to me “What is the rock bottom budget for this film?” I said $1.6 million. That’s what we had to make it with. It was only in that budget that it took on the campy quality it ended up with.
How much were you involved in the editing process of the film?
Andrew Bonime: In the end, not much. Readers must understand what goes on from shooting to release. Many fingers leave prints on the film. The director’s cut which was contractually given to Doug was awful. Despite the fact that Claire Simpson cut this version (Claire won an Academy Award the next year for “Platoon”), it lacked any real scares and telegraphed the approach of the creatures so that they just weren’t scary. I took over the film and put together the version we used to sell the film all over the world.
But New World did some test screenings and edited the film according to audience response. This is where the middle got transferred to the end and vice versa. In my opinion, this is where the most damage was done. At one of the early screenings, when Kim Greist is shouting out the window “Help me!” Someone in the audience shouted “Call the Ghostbusters!” because that film had just come out. New World heard the audience laugh at that and so they recorded someone doing that line and put it in the film. When the DVD came out, somebody (I don’t know who) got a hold of one of my early versions and that’s why it has most of the scenes in the right order.
What do you mean when you say the “middle got transferred to the end”?
Andrew Bonime: There are so many versions around, it’s hard for me to refer to any particular one. But essentially, we had the C.H.U.D.s attacking the diner (the scene with John Goodman and Jay Thomas) somewhere near the middle of the film. It needs to be there for dramatic rhythm. If it isn’t there, the middle falls flat. We had ended with Danny Stern firing at the truck which then blows up causing the underground to explode and (presumably) killing all the C.H.U.D.s. New World took the diner attack out of the middle and put it at the end. They then put in their own gratuitous ending with a V.O. announcer saying something on the track indicating that “it’s a brand new day” or some such nonsense like that.
Do you keep in contact with any of the cast or crew from CHUD?
Andrew Bonime: Not the cast. But I am in touch with Parnell Hall, the screenwriter. He has gone on to become a very successful mystery novelist and has three different series out. I also am in touch with Bob Bordiga, the UPM on the shoot. Bob was essential in the making of the film. He made all the deals and was the reason the foreign buyers at Cannes thought we had spent eight million dollars on it.
Bob is also one of the most moral men in a largely amoral business. He is a gem of human being. I like almost everyone on the crew. The DP and the script supervisor fell in love on the shoot and got married. I have tried to get in touch with John Caglione, the SFX makeup artist (who, BTW won an Academy Award for “Dick Tracy”) but he hasn’t returned my emails. Just today, I spoke with Dan O’Bannon who helped me out with the visuals (sadly there was not enough money in the budget to make much use of most of them).
I had heard a rumor a while back that CHUD had been optioned for a remake… can you confirm or deny this?
Andrew Bonime: As your readers must know, I sold the remake and sequel rights to Vestron a few years after C.H.U.D. came out because I didn’t want to keep making the same film. Their sequel was so awful, I exercised my right to have my name removed from the film and all advertising. But there is a new production in development with another major producer right now. I’d say more, but I haven’t read any scripts yet and I try to keep an arm’s length from it. Also, the making of any film is a tap dance in a mine field. So many never survive the development process, so until it is in theaters, I never like to talk about them.
What do you think it is about “C.H.U.D.” that has caused the film to resurface in recent years as a cult classic?
Andrew Bonime: Damned if I know. I always thought that there was intense mystery about the world underneath a big city like New York. I also think that the idea of things grabbing you from beneath is a strong image that goes back to our childhood. We all fear the monster under the bed. Someone once told me that John Carpenter had a “C.H.U.D.” poster up in is offices during the making of “Escape From New York”. I think there’s a scene in that film that has hands reaching up from beneath. And, of course, there’s “Jaws”.
I think that image is very strong. One other thing about it I owe to Parnell Hall: He thought that the acronym for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers” could never be taken seriously. That was in Shep Abbott’s original draft. But Parnell came up with the alternate “Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal” to take the cheesiness off of the original. In our shooting script, there was a lot of interplay between those two meanings, but the actors (especially Danny Stern) mangled it beyond recognition. But I think that enough of Parnell’s sensibility remains in the movie so it ends up being a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That helps a lot.
C.H.U.D. Director Douglas Cheek
What were the circumstances that led you to make C.H.U.D.?
Douglas Cheek: The opportunity arose because a friend of mine named Shep Abbott came up with this script about, these strange humanoid creatures living beneath the city. Shep and I were really into New York City and were both amazed by the underground life that went on in the subways and subterranean areas. At the time, there had been an article in the newspaper about homeless communities living down there not in the sewers of course, but in the various underground places and it was fascinating stuff. Very often you would find men and women sleeping down in the corridors of the subway system. We took that reality and ran with it, suggesting that these unfortunate people had somehow mutated into horrible monsters.
What can you tell me about the creation of the C.H.U.D. themselves?
Douglas Cheek: The monsters were originally going to be much more human looking than what we ended up with in the finished film. I wanted them to move very fast to run, leap and jump around and be these highly athletic, dangerous creatures. Instead, what we got were big, lumbering, rubber monsters that could hardly move except for these long necks that would extend for no reason. All the C.H.U.D. really needed were glowing eyes end sharp teeth, not elongated necks. They should have looked more recognizably human and going the rubber monster route meant we encountered several problems during shooting. Firstly, the actors playing the creatures had to sit in chairs with oxygen tanks nearby as they couldn’t breathe inside, the masks. They were so crippled by the amount of rubber surrounding them, they couldn’t move. It was the complete opposite of what I had wanted.
Why didn’t you get what you wanted?
Douglas Cheek: I had some difficulties with my producer, Andrew Bonime, as we both had very different visions for C.H.U.D. Andy wanted to be involved with the process and I realized that if he was preoccupied with doing the monsters it would give me a lot more freedom to make my film. So I said, “Okay, go ahead and design these creatures because I know you are really into this stuff.” That got him out of my way for a while and gave me a little more room to maneuver as a director. Unfortunately, the result of that decision was we ended up with these weird rubber monsters that were practically immobile. By that time, it was too late to do anything about it.
Before embarking on C.H.U.D., did you feel you had a good grasp of the cinematic mechanics required to scare an audience?
Douglas Cheek: I did, but I’ve never been a real horror film buff. My approach to creating a scary atmosphere involved developing the sounds of the underground the echoing, hollow sounds of these subterranean chambers. I wanted C.H.U.D. to have this consistently eerie feeling on the soundtrack each time the characters ventured down into the darkness. I was a picture editor before I was a director, and had also done a lot of my own sound editing, which was very helpful. Naturally, the underground locations we used in C.H.U.D. were very atmospheric and authentic places. We did a lot of work down there shooting in places nobody had ever shot before. They were difficult locations to deal with, but shooting in the real environment made all the difference.’ It gave C.H.U.D. this genuinely creepy mood.
Were you attempting any social commentary with C.H.U.D. in regards to environmental issues, or die homelessness and poverty found in America?
Douglas Cheek: No, we didn’t have any social or political agenda whatsoever. In fact, when Shep and I came up with the idea for C.H.U.D., it was intended to be a laugh. I mean, we always wanted the movie to be frightening, but it was such a preposterous concept it couldn’t be taken entirely seriously. When Andy Bonime took over the editing of C.H.U.D. after I’d delivered my director’s cut, I think he emphasized more of a serious tone and we lost some of the crazy humor.
Is it true that you actually replaced Andrew Bonime as director?
Douglas Cheek: Yes, that’s true. Andy was initially thinking of directing CHU.D. himself even though he hadn’t done any directing When I first met him, I brought along this ten-minute black-and-white short film I’d made called Shoeshine. It was an atmospheric mood piece about this guy who goes down into a deserted Subway platform. He’s alone and he hears all these disturbing sounds – Weird echoes, dripping water, the clicking of tracks changing into a different lane — When suddenly a train goes rushing by. In its wake, he notices there is a figure at the other end of the platform, coming towards him and mumbling. It’s a homeless guy who is incessantly chanting: Shine-shoe, shoe-shine, shine-shoe, shoe-shine… As he gets closer and close, the Sound of another train gets bigger and bigger and, as it finally arrives, the homeless guy springs out from behind him and that was it-tube end! really built up the tension of that moment and his figures approach. Even though Shoeshine was a very simple film, certainly had its effect. When Andy saw it he immediately said, “That’s exactly what I want for C.H.U.D., You’ve got the job!”I was thrilled. I never dreamed I would get a feature film as a result of my short.
During the shooting of the film, I understand that your working relationship with Bonime began to deteriorate.
Douglas Cheek: Yeah, sadly, I did. I had some problems personally with Andy. but I always tried my best and I wanted him as the producer to be a part of everything we did. Unfortunately, all the main actors in C.H.U.D. who were all very close friends of mine really hated him! I was trying to do a balancing act between my friendship with them and still keeping a good relationship with Andy But It was difficult because they were so relentlessly anti Andy. So it made the situation a little difficult for me and I kind of regret what happened. I felt bad about Andy’s position and how he was kind of being pushed cut by all of us. This was the first time that any of these actors although they all had pretty decent careers had ever been in a position (of power like that; being a part of the actual idea and film making process.
One of the legends that has surfaced about C.H.U.D. is that Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, was originally cast in the role of the Reverend. Can you confirm or deny this?
Douglas Cheek: Robert Englund? No, that’s not true and I would have known about it I don’t know where that rumor came from. In fact, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard that name mentioned because (Daniel Stern) was always going to play that part in the film.
How valid are the claims that Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry rewrote sizable chunks of the screenplay during the shoot?
Douglas Cheek: Yeah, they did. That is true,
Did you encounter any problems in post-production?
Douglas Cheek: No, I had complete control when I was doing my director’s cut Fortunately. my long-time assistant editor. Clair Simpson, was hired as the editor of C.H.U.D. and I was happy about that because we had a tremendous working relationship. I knew that she would do her best for the movie after was done with my cut. You see, Andy had to give me my director’s cut before he got his hands on it and made any changes. I thought at least Clair would be there to ameliorate some of the things that Andy was going to want to do to with my cut that I probably wouldn’t want him to do. And, to a degree, I think she did a pretty good job of trying to keep the picture the way that I wanted to be.
So when did you actually see the release version?
Douglas Cheek: I believe I first saw it when C.H.U.D. came out.
Didn’t you catch any test screenings of the film? I believe that at least one took place in New Jersey if I’m not mistaken.
Douglas Cheek: Yeah, possibly. but I don’t recall anything of that screening. Once I finished my director’s cut and had a screening of that, the test screenings came later and were all the producers doing. They would have shown a slightly different version of C.H.U.D. at that screening because several things were charged after my cut I was disappointed with a lot of the stuff that had been removed or altered in the movie, but it didn’t surprise me that Andy went in a different direction. But I think the film did get a pretty good release and I Go like it.
Why didn’t you ever direct another film?
Douglas Cheek: Well, once C.H.U.D. was released and my name was out there, I did try for a while. But I found going to various meetings and attempting to sell myself and my ideas to producers very dispiriting. I didn’t enjoy that part of the job at all and 1 soon backed away from it. There was just too much bullshit to deal with and so I pretty much stayed out of the business after C.H.U.D. Occasionally, over the years, I’ve helped other people out with their projects, but I haven’t directed another movie.
What did you make of the tenuous 1989 sequel C.H.U.D. II; Bud the Chud ?
Douglas Cheek: I’ve never seen it.
Are you aware that C.H.U.D. has several celebrity fans, including actor Robert Downey, Jr and rock star Dave Grohl?
Douglas Cheek: I know that Robert Downey, Jr. is a big fan of the movie, but I didn’t know about the rock star. The interesting thing about C.H.U.D. is that it still hasn’t died away after all these years. It has continued to survive and I’m incredibly proud of that. The movie didn’t do particularly great at the time of its release, but it’s enjoyed a very long afterlife. I mean, there aren’t too many people out there who haven’t heard of it.
Did you make any money from C.H.U.D.?
Douglas Cheek: No, nothing to speak of. I wasn’t a part of the sharing at the movie. I think that, ultimately, Andy must have done well but I certainly wasn’t in on it.
On his website, Bonime insists that he didn’t do well out of C.H.U.D. either.
Douglas Cheek: Really? Hmmm, that’s interesting. Well, somebody must have made some money out at. I should take a look at Andy’s website sometime.
C.H.U.D. David Cooper (Artist), David Hughes (Artist)
The primitive synth score composed by Martin Cooper and David Hughes captures the seedy, grim landscape that embodied early 1980’s NYC. In collaboration with the composers, Waxwork has effectively re-stored, re-mixed, and mastered the full film score directly from the original master tapes.
Other LP package features include an old-style tip on gatefold jacket featuring artwork by Ghoulish Gary Pullin, a printed inner sleeve, and 180 gram colored vinyl.
On the C.H.U.D. DVD’s commentary track, director Douglas Cheek claims never to have met you. How did you get offered the job?
DAVID A. HUGHES: At the time, both myself and Martin had ties to Warner Bros., who [at one point] were distributing the film, through our band, and the idea was to do an electronic score, because the Vangelis music for Chariots of Fire had been so successful. We were contacted by the film’s producer, Andrew Bonime, and offered the job. Being what I’d like to call “pig ignorant” and filled with the bravado of youth, we informed them that we’d only do it if we could record in Liverpool at Our favorite studio. The truth is, we were really taking the piss and more than a little intimidated by the whole proceedings. I mean, we were 22 years old, and this was a lot of money at the time $20,000 or so.
So Andrew flew to England and spent his first week in utter disbelief that we’d be able to get anything accomplished. For one thing, he wasn’t used to listening to multitrack recordings, so he was hearing skeletal mixes of the barest tracks with this complete look of horror on his face. We had to assure him that the material would sound more full and polished as we added successive layers of instrumentation. To make matters worse, he was a complete ringer for Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, and when he’d get agitated at us punk kids, he’d just look like this screaming beard, which of course amused us to no end.
Let’s talk about the recording process a bit. You say you wanted to record in your favorite local studio. What kind of facility was it? What type of gear did you have on hand?
HUGHES: Amazon Studios was its name, and we were very comfortable there, having used it on many recordings previously. The equipment was pretty standard, nothing exceptional, but it felt like home, and we could bring in all these cutting-edge synths, and units like the Emulator.
What was that?
The Emulator was a very early sampler. It was quite limited by today’s standards, but it had a huge impact on the way that score came out. Because of its limitations in audio fidelity, anything that passed through it took on a rather otherworldly quality if you so much as played it back more than one half-octave from where the original sample was recorded. Voices, strings, piano…all came back like they were roasting in hell. It really was an extraordinary unit for creating interesting atmospheres.
A lot of the material has a very industrial sound, much more like the early works of Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 than other synth work of the day. What was going on with other synth-based soundtracks in those years seems pretty far removed from what you two were coming up with.
HUGHES: Yeah, that was again the balls of youth; we were just too caught up in what we were doing to notice how strange it really was. We used things like scraping the springs of a guitar amp, and sampling that to use in a more percussive way. Same with vocals. We would sample them and then layer them in the Emulator at different pitches. The end result could be quite potent. This was combined with the limited FX that the studio had hanging around: tape delays, reverb tanks, that kind of stuff. We were essentially doing the engineering ourselves, and we had free run of the place. Plus, in those days, there was more time in a postproduction schedule to experiment a bit. It wasn’t like it is today go, go, go!!!!
How long were the scoring sessions?
HUGHES: Several weeks, if I remember correctly. Maybe a month. We were hidden away from the world, much like a C.H.U.D., actually. Surrounded by our own strange world of gear. I also owned a Roland SH1, which was a very Moogish-sounding synth, and I used that a lot. More for the melodic parts.
Speaking of which, there are a few more traditional cues in the film, even some quite melodic piano. Dare I say a C.H.U.D. love theme? Was this because you wanted to round out or counterbalance the more abrasive stuff, or because you felt it was what the scenes warranted?
HUGHES: Well, you can’t just blast all the time, right? And we did want to show that we could also play our instruments in a proper fashion. Not to mention, the movie has some softer moments, and we did want to give them a fair go as well.
You didn’t really seem to be subscribing to the idea of recurring motifs, or. melodies in the leitmotif kind of way (a leitmotif is a recurring theme associated with a particular character, place or idea; think Darth Vader’s theme or the ominous tuba notes in Jaws).
HUGHES: No, not so much. I don’t remember why, exactly. Probably because we were trying to approach the whole thing from a different perspective. Remember, we considered ourselves quite cutting edge artists. There are a few melodies that pop up more than once, though.
I’ve also noticed that C.H.U.D. has a considerably smaller amount of music than many films, which is quite a mature decision for a young Composer.
HUGHES: Well, that’s another area where we just said, ‘This is the way we want to do it and that’s how it’s going to be.’ It’s actually quite remarkable, the freedom that the studio gave us, considering we only had one previous film to our names at that time [the Italian sword-and-sorcery film Hearts and Armor].
After C.H.U.D., you didn’t do another movie for many years. When you did return to film scoring, horror didn’t seem to be on the agenda. Any particular reason for this?
HUGHES: Well, I was contractually obligated to another record label for a number of years, and I was playing live shows and touring with vocalist Thomas Lang. We’d had some hits, and there were many touring offers that kept me out on the road for many years. Eventually, I missed doing instrumental music, and wanted to get back to that. A decade or so had passed, and by this time home recording had become a more affordable concept, and so I built a home studio and got back into film work. With the advent of multilayered samplers and MIDI, I was able to do much more by myself, so I just went from there. Another horror film just never came my way.
Any final thoughts on what has kept C.H.U.D. alive, and so beloved by fans for all these years?
HUGHES: It’s a good film, way better than many critics ever understood. But the fans got it. It’s a fantastic premise that’s executed with a lot of heart. It is great to see that all these years later, something done with a really punk attitude something that was quite rough around the edges can still resonate with an audience. Those are the purest forms of art, and I’m really glad we did something that has endured and is loved so much.
Directed Douglas Cheek
Produced Andrew Bonime
Screenplay Parnell Hall
Story Shepard Abbott
John Heard as George Cooper
Daniel Stern as A.J. “The Reverend” Shepherd
Christopher Curry as Captain Bosch
Kim Greist as Lauren Daniels
J.C. Quinn as Murphy
Michael O’Hare as Fuller
Peter Michael Goetz as Gramps
Sam McMurray as Officer Crespi
Frankie R. Faison as Sgt. Parker
Rue Morgue #151
C.H.U.D Andrew Bonime