C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Lionsgate Films
Directed by David Irving
Written by Ed Naha (as M. Kane Jeeves)
1989, 84 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on November 22nd, 2016
Brian Robbins as Steve Williams
Bill Calvert as Kevin
Tricia Leigh Fisher as Katie
Gerrit Graham as Bud Oliver
Robert Vaughn as Col. Masters
Bianca Jagger as Velma
Larry Linville as Dr. Jewell
There is an old saying that “A good friend will help you move – a great friend will help you move a body.” This adage is tested when Kevin and Steve must steal a cadaver from the local Disease Control Center in order to replace the one they lost at school...don’t ask. They manage to slip past security and claim a frozen stiff named Bud, and sneak it back to Kevin’s house with the help of their friend Katie. Strange things happen once the corpse is re-animated in a bubble bath and starts running around town. It turns out the body was part of a top-secret series of experiments the military was running in hopes of creating super soldiers for the battlefield. Col. Masters ran the failed program and wants his “property” returned. Further complicating things is a zombie outbreak that is spreading through the neighborhood. Kevin, Steve and Katie must track down Bud and get him to the school before the police, the military, the F.B.I. or a growing pack of the undead catches them.
What do you get when you cross elements of the classic zombie movie with a generous helping of slapstick high school hijinks? If you answered My Boyfriend’s Back (1993), that is incorrect. No, I’m sorry, the word we are looking for in this case is: disappointed. There are many horror-comedy hybrids that manage to entertain and thrill audiences, primarily due to the strength of the script and the talent on both sides of the camera. Make no mistake; this is not an easy feat to accomplish, for every successful effort there are countless bombs littering the cinematic roadside. David Irving (Night of the Cyclone) is given the assignment of directing a sequel to the surprisingly popular horror movie C.H.U.D. (1984), despite having never seen it. There have long been rumors this was to be a sequel to The Return of the Living Dead (1985), which makes sense given the tone of that franchise. Screenwriter Ed Naha (Dolls) hides behind the alias M. Kane Jeeves as he takes a half-hearted swing and delivers something that has absolutely nothing to do with the original film. C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. pushes a mediocre idea into an incoherent mess in hopes of duping viewers by cashing in on a recognizable title.
I deliberately refrained from using the term C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) in my synopsis in hopes of letting the story stand on its own. Unfortunately, the film we are given fails on almost every level and viewers are denied both laughs and chills. The only bright spot in an otherwise miserable experience is the brilliant casting of Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise) as the titular Bud (the C.H.U.D.). His comic timing and skills at physical comedy go a long way in making this mess tolerable, but the weight is too great and even a man of his talents is brought down by the ridiculous script. The core issue is the lack of understanding of what exactly Bud is. For all practical purposes he is a zombie, but Bud appears more interested in merely nibbling on his victims and spreading the contagion. These creatures can talk, drive, dance and perform any number of activities that might gain a chuckle from a five-year-old, but they are never developed as characters.
Irving packs his film with cameos from television’s small screen of yesteryear. Larry Linville (M*A*S*H), Norman Fell (Three’s Company), June Lockhart (Lost in Space), Jack Riley (The Bob Newhart Show) and Clive Revill (Wizards and Warriors) all turn up in simple scenes that add nothing to the mix. Riley has the most screen time while Linville only appears in the first of three scenes featuring his character, with an obvious double filling in the remaining material. It is nice to see these character actors working again, even if it is just for the paycheck, but I am not sure contemporary viewers will recognize any of them as “celebrities”. Now turning to the opposite end of that last statement and giving Graham a run for the title of most-dedicated performer in this picture is the always-welcome Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). Vaughn grabs onto the role of Col. Masters with both hands and appears to be having too much fun to let go. No matter how terrible the surrounding picture is, whenever Graham or Vaughn is on screen, I have to admit they make me smile.
There are countless ways to better spend ninety minutes of your life than with C.H.U.D. II, and I will recommend just a few. If you need a thoughtful and entertaining zombie comedy try Fido (2006), or if you want a zombie high school flick try Zombie High (1987). If you are looking for a fun sequel that has nothing to do with the tone of the original, either Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 or Hello Mary Lou, Prom Night II (both 1987) should do the trick. The “Best Worst Movie” ever – Troll 2 (1990) – is a high-water mark for incompetence that succeeds in entertaining in spite of itself. I’m glad Lionsgate is revitalizing the Vestron Video label and releasing catalog horror titles, but there are plenty of more deserving movies in their vault than Bud the C.H.U.D.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the film features an inconsistent transfer that while not exactly perfect, is a significant upgrade from the earlier DVD edition. Colors appear muted and drab, but black levels are more dependable.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track gets the job done without exerting too much effort. Dialogue levels remain clear and free from distortion and bass levels come to life during the musical numbers. Good luck getting the goofy theme song out of your head.
English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
God bless Michael Felsher and the energy he brings to every commentary session. This time around he is joined by David Irving and he wisely inquires not only about this picture, but much of the director’s history and filmography. Topics are wide-ranging and Felsher keeps things moving at a decent clip.
Actor Gerrit Graham reflects on “the career that never was” in the interview segment Bud Speaks! (16 minutes). He is full of great stories and never takes himself too seriously, making him all the more affable.
Katie’s Kalamity (13 minutes) catches up with actress Tricia Leigh Fisher (credited on the package’s slipcover as Tricia Leigh), who is instantly likeable and eager to share her memories of working on the picture. There are a few gems here, so check it out.
Special effects artist Allan Apone provides a lot of information on the look of Bud and the other ghouls in the segment This C.H.U.D.’s for You (15 minutes). The highlight of this piece is the inclusion of rare behind-the-scenes video shot during production.
A video trailer manages to spoil all of the fun and surprises, including the ending, in just under two minutes.
A still gallery (6 minutes) presents a generous number of production photographs and marketing materials that play as a slideshow set to that never-ending theme song.