Welcome to the next CHUD List.
tackled our our disappointments, our essentials list and slowly exhumed
our Kills List from 2003, and now that we’ve begun the beguine, we must
The CHUD.com Top 50 Guilty Pleasures.
all got those little flicks that we know are wrong, but feel so right.
And after our preceding list of disappointment, we decided to cleanse
the palate by honoring our favorite guilty pleasures. These are films
that are flawed and often completely indefensible, but we can’t help but
love them anyway. As before, from a master list of over 100, the
involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and Nick) all killed
off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we’ll run a big list
at the end of this of the ‘ones that got away’. So, here are the Top 50
Guilty Pleasures. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no
(1983, Dir. Harry Bromley Davenport)
Why It’s a Guilty Pleasure: Is there another film that bases itself so shamelessly on Spielberg’s work from the ’70s and ’80s? This is Close Encounters plus E.T. plus Poltergeist and Twilight Zone: The Movie. Writer/Composer/Director Davenport claims the whole movie is about throwing in whatever ideas they had, and he calls it ‘an extraordinary mess’ which makes me like it all the more.
(Yes, I also know about the Inseminoid similarities, but I’ve never seen that film.)
The first forty minutes is rife with hand-wringing silliness in which young Tony’s mother and her boyfriend worry about his dreams and the blood that mysteriously appears on his body. Unbeknownst to them, there’s a guy crab-walking across town in an alien suit, shortly to be followed by a nightmare vision of the birthing process. The juxtaposition between Kramer Vs Kramer angst and alien goop is part of what makes Xtro so memorable. Or would be, if it worked.
Xtro tries really hard to apply lessons learned from Alien when it comes to the extra-terrestrial life cycle. But, fully in compliance with Davenport’s description, none of it makes any sense. So the alien returns, births human guise only through a human woman, but can pass on powers to his son, who can then create eggs of himself that are filled either with clones or facehuggers, depending upon the ending you see, while the dad’s flesh falls off (looking like a salad of mixed greens and red/yellow peppers as it does) to reveal a metallic, skeletal Giger alien on the cheap.
Yeah, OK. Why not. And the kid can create anything he wants. The crab-walker can kill with stinging blows below the eyes, and Alien Dad can push a man’s brains out his ears with a scream. And why not have an apartment painted 2001 white, a panther (that looks about 45 years old with a handful of teeth) and a dwarf (precisely the sort of thing The Dink goes on about in Living In Oblivion) and a full-sized Action Man. Just for the fuck of it, right? Yep. Oh, and Maryam d’Abo: naked.
(The crab-walking alien and Action Man were played by Tik and Tok, a British musician/mime duo who supported Gary Numan and featured robotic moves. They were also in Return of the Jedi. Their website heavily promotes their Star Wars appearance, but doesn’t mention Xtro.)
Speaking of ‘composer’ Davenport, this is what happens when you give a filmmaker a keyboard and copies of John Carpenter’s films. The score sounds like it was made while Davenport sat on the toilet, keyboard on his knees, his elbow hitting random notes as he reached across the room vainly trying to grasp a brand-new toilet roll. It’s spacey, but not in time with anything that appeals to an Earthly musical sense. Perhaps, just as Cronenberg made a happy ending in Shivers for all the parasites in the house, Davenport was scoring the film for watchers from afar.
Signature Moment: No contest: the man-birth. Or, as my childhood friend always referenced it, the ‘pussyburster’. Watching it now I guess it’s not quite as visually explicit as I remember, but the whole atmosphere of the scene, coupled with the close-up of Sam chewing through his own adult umbilical cord, is enough to etch this scene in the memory of everyone who sees it. The dog eating Alien Sam’s old skin in the background makes it perfect. The scene is even on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. (Right here.)
What It’s Missing: Tension. Despite all the weirdness at hand and the ugly adult birth, there’s never a moment where you’re scared for anyone, or where you wonder what might be around the corner. Every blow is telegraphed miles away and the few potentially fearful moments are demolished by a black hole of logic.
My Personal Connection to It: When we were in elementary school and junior high, my friend Craig and I would rent all manner of shitty movies, often with a simple goal in mind: naked women. Cool aliens and wacky fantasy shit didn’t hurt. The video box tagline for Xtro grabbed us, but it wasn’t until Craig moved away, rented it on his own and then insisted we watch it on my next visit that I finally saw the flick, and it totally lived up to our imagined version, based solely on the box art. It has endured ever since.
Watch It With: Surgeons who specialize in non-scarring caesarian section.
- Russ Fischer
C.H.U.D. (1984, Dir. Douglas Cheek)
It’s a Guilty Pleasure: In no small part due to this film, the word CHUD is a noun, a verb, an adjective, a pluran noun, a homonym, an acronym, a synonym, an antonym, and a henrypym. It’s such a great word and it seems nearly everyone out there associates it with the Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers who star in the film rather than the numerous urban delelopments in their own communities.
That means it’s working.
C.H.U.D. is not a great movie by anyone’s stretch, but it has merit. First of all, it features a cast of familiar faces. It also features Daniel Stern, John Heard, Christopher Curry, with value added cameos by John Goodman and Jay Thomas. It also features homeless people turned into sinewy killing machines.
There’s something about the movie, though. There’s ambition here. It doesn’t aim for cheese, instead another project hamstrung by budgetary limitations. The folks behind the movie had great intentions [as evidenced by the DVD’s great commentary track], it just came out a little bit silly at times.
The main reason are the creatures themselves. Because of the limitations of the time, the beasts are clunky at best, rarely achieving the intended creepiness but almost always adding to the fun of the proceedings. By the time the climax arrives the pleasure outweighs the guilt just enough.
Moment: So, one of the beasts is lurking around after our female lead after failing to execute and devour her in the past. He is in her apartment, having burst through the wall. He’s on the hunt, his eyes aglow and his crystalline teeth sticky with excitment drool. He can sense her. He can smell her. His loins are twitching with anticipation. It’s a small apartment. She has nowhere to hide. Except as it turns out, in her darkroom. She’s on on a high shelf as the subterran threat prowls beneath. How could she escape? Only HE can burst through walls. Only HE and the Kool-Aid man. She sees her opportunity and STRIKES! With photographic emulsion. The solvent hits the beast, briefly pausing his hunt. She escapes into the living room where a sword happens to be hanging on the wall. He emerges for the kill but WAIT! Something in his contaminated makeup conflicts with the emulsion, causing a change. He’s already a Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller who did not heed the Caution of Hazardous Urban Disposal. That should be enough for any being, but the emulsion has seeped into him and caused a change. Is this the ultimate killer being created? The evolution to the rank of Apex Predator of all time? No. Instead, his neck extends oddly and weakly like some sort of Morlock erection. He bleats out at the woman, who is already in mid-swing with her Ninja cutlery. The beast is felled. Its head and 45% of its neck stalk quivering on the ground and like Mozart in that famous 80’s song, it dies. In a poetic gesture, the last bits of life to fade are the glowing eyes. A part of me died too.
What It’s Missing: A good sequel.
My Personal Connection to It: I kinda liked the acronym, so I…
Watch It With: Everyone you’ve ever met and the majority of the folks you haven’t.
- Nick Nunziata