There is a little known but fairly easy trick to dissect a film that anyone can do. Simply count the number of camera shots. Not only will it show you the rhythm of the film but you’ll get a better feel for the film; an understanding of why that shot was used, why it’s at that pace, what the mise en scene is telling you, what the director is having the film’s subtext say to you through the construction of the visual narrative.
In C.H.U.D II: Bud the C.H.U.D (1989), out now on Blu-Ray, the director is using the subtext to tell us that they are a gibbering degenerate lunatic who once looked up the words Comedy and Horror in the dictionary.
After the plug has been pulled on the C.H.U.D program, a military experiment to produce super soldiers that has led to zombies for what can only be described as reasons; the last C.H.U.D, Bud (Gerrit Graham), is frozen and shipped off to a research station in a small sleepy town in the middle of nowhere, which looks suspiciously like L.A. After a trio of highschool friends (Brian Robbins, Bill Calvert, and Tricia Leigh Fisher) accidently knock a cadaver (that their biology teacher was bringing into class) into heavy traffic, they decide to break into the research station via the miracle of jump cut editing and grab Bud as a replacement…I wish that sentence made sense, I really wish it did. After reanimating Bud, in a scene that would make no sense in any other movie but given what we’ve seen so far might as well go with it, a military mission led by Colonel Masters (Robert Vaughn) sets out to stop Bud and the army of C.H.U.D’s he’s raising.
At this point the movie descends into a series of violent swearing at the screen by the viewer, with a mixture of cameos including Robert England, Bianca Jagger, and Rich Hall who know doubt fled to England afterwards in shame.
I honestly think that Jonathan D. Krane is the greatest producer ever. Not only did he manage to keep John Travolta in work throughout the late 80’s to late 90’s, he also managed to get this green lit; convinced a studio of businessmen and executives to pony up the money needed to make a film with this premise.
Does C.H.U.D II have any redeeming features?
No. It’s a wreck from start to finish, dragging on far longer than its 84 minute run time. Its narrative, from the uninterrupted opening 3 minute tracking shot of a random doctor to its stilted edited fight scenes, serves only to increase the agonising Bataan Death March that lurks in the soul of this film.
In terms of horror I have seen scarier episodes of Are you Afraid of the Dark? (1990-2000). Even the scenes that are only there to play for shock value are as damp and limp as a twelve week old corpse. The only form of horror and dread comes from the accidental existential nightmare of Eighties decadence throughout the production, inhabited by the population of the Uncanny Valley; a population that depresses even David Lynch.
The comedy meanwhile is blisteringly ugly and so forced that it makes no impact before descending into white noise in the background, like that guy at work that won’t stop making quips despite the calls into HR. It doesn’t even have the campy value of something like Troll 2 (1990) or The Room (2003) where everything is terrible and over the top but tries to play it straight faced.
Rather than go into anymore rants I will just list a few things and let you be the judge of it.
One; a zombie poodle attacking a mailman out of shot and then dragging him away unnoticed in broad daylight. Two; Bud turning up on a woman’s front door in the dead of night who, instead of demanding what he wants, asks if he’s single and hetero. Three; zombies driving around in a pickup truck, growling one minute and talking the next. Four; Robert Vaughn blowing up a truck with one shot from his gun….which still somehow seems unrealistic in a movie about zombies.
I want to end with a funny quip about the film, like you’d have to be a zombie to watch it, but I can’t bring myself to. This film has robbed me of precious hours of my life and I can only take comfort in the knowledge that one day it and all of human civilization will be obliterated in a Supernova, thus saving other galactic species the pain of watching it.
Dir: David K. Irving
Scr: M. Kane Jeeves
Cast: Brian Robbins, Bill Calvert, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Robert Vaughn
Prd: Jonathan D. Krane
DOP: Arnie Sirlin
Music: Nicholas Pike
Runtime: 84 minutes