Bud the Chud, da da da, Bud the Chud...
I enjoyed this movie! I didn't always know whether I was laughing at it or with it, but it kept me entertained despite being a dumb eighties horror-comedy that's hardly hilarious and not even in the same universe as scary. Its heroes are three teenagers who couldn't tie their shoelaces without assistance. The ringleading moron is so magnificently stupid that there's a law-of-gravity inevitability to the way he ends up kidnapping a flesh-eating zombie, reviving it and then... oh, watch for yourself.
Admittedly it's not frightening, but that's hardly a fair criticism. It's not trying to be. This may be a movie about flesh-eating zombies overrunning a small American town, but in no other respect does it bear even an inbred relationship to horror movies. Gremlins is scarier than C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud. These zombies are an excuse for goofy comedy and pratfalls, not gore. Whenever someone gets attacked, the camera pans away - and afterwards there's no splatter to be seen, except occasionally a red trickle at the corner of the mouth. These must be the daintiest eaters in all of zombiedom. Until now I'd never seen a kiddie-friendly zombie film.
Its family-friendly credentials are also reinforced by a disgraceful lack of nudity, although the heroine does get to wear an eye-catching swimsuit for the dramatic climax.
And the eighties-ness! Never before had I seen Essence of Eighties cranked up to eleven as in this film. It's the Kids from Fame, it's Dirty Dancing, it's... well, let me put it this way. Before today, I couldn't have defined an eighties look. I lived through the decade, sure, but I was at school. But now if anyone asks me what the eighties looked like, I'll just point them at this film. And it's not just the hair and clothes either. Watch the "whoops you missed him" comedy routines of teens sneaking Bud the Chud around their parents' house early in the film, then tell me that sequence could have been perpetrated in any other decade.
Nevertheless I enjoyed this film, despite all of the above. Or do I mean because of it? 1980s horror-comedies are overall a lame genre, usually basically being horror that's suffering from the imposition of a few attempted gags. This film can't be accused of not going wholeheartedly for eighties comedy. (Note: this is not always the same thing as comedy.) It's pretty daft, but it has goofball energy and some good throwaway lines. "We're going down in the anals of history" got a laugh from me, as did: "How's Mr Oliver?" "Still dead." Robert Vaughn contributes exactly the right amount of camp with his unhinged military dude and Gerrit Graham (giving the film's best performance) is clearly having the time of his life as the eponymous Bud. You gotta love the gratuitous poodle-abuse. And I don't know about you, but I'll always admire any movie shameless enough to give us a character so stupid that he thinks that zombies could be reanimated because of his mum's bubble bath.
The movie's biggest problem is its too-linear plot. It's like the middle act of Gremlins, but with zombies. Bud makes other zombies and leads them around. That's pretty much the whole film. I appreciated its energy, but it's a bit wasted on such a one-note story. More ingenuity in the scripting could have turned this into something I'd be a lot less ambivalent about supporting.
The music was fun, though. It wouldn't have worked in, y'know, a horror movie, but in a slice of eighties kitsch like this it fits like a glove. There's also the Bud Theme I quoted at the top of this review: "Bud the Chud, da da da, Bud the Chud..."
You'll get a nasty shock if you rent this because you enjoyed the original, though. It starts by forgetting that the previous film ever happened. Robert Vaughn's superiors have pulled the plug on his beloved C.H.U.D. project because of the side effects of the drugs, rather than because, say, the entire homeless population of New York turned into man-eating monsters. The Chuds themselves bear no resemblance to those of the first film, being straightforward zombies without any yellow eyes, snaggly teeth or bad rubber suits. Most importantly, the original wasn't a comedy. There's so little common ground between this film and its predecessor that one wonders why they bothered calling it a sequel at all.
One can nitpick. How does Robert Vaughn blow up a truck with one pistol shot? Why is one military character shocked at the zombies' cannibalistic tendencies, given that it's actually in their job description? The "C" in C.H.U.D., remember? Most bizarrely, why are all the zombies so keen on specifically chasing Katy? I don't think they'd yet eaten everyone on the dance floor and surely they couldn't all have the hots for her like Bud does. However none of that matters. To worry about such details you'd have to take this film seriously. It has severed head gags! You can't go wrong with severed head gags. This movie isn't for everyone, but I thought it was a laugh. Just don't rent it expecting horror, for goodness sake... it belongs on the shelf marked "goofy eighties comedy" alongside stuff like The Goonies.