Epeolatry Book Review: C.H.U.D. Lives: A Tribute Anthology
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Title: C.H.U.D. Lives: A Tribute Anthology
Editor: Eric S. Brown
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing LLC.
Release Date: 27 April 2018
Synopsis: C.H.U.D. is a genre defying, cult classic film featuring monsters living in the sewers below New York. The stories in this anthology expand the world created by the film and add depth to the C.H.U.D. universe like never before. From stories of apocalyptic horror and all out monster action, to tales of underground parties interrupted by uninvited guests and evening strolls that end in death, this anthology will leave you both smiling and breathless.
Relive the fear as these original stories take you beyond the movie to events that occurred before, during, and after the scenes we remember so well.
Includes C.H.U.D. related stories by Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, JG Faherty, Mort Castle, Michael H. Hanson, Martin Powell, Ben Fisher, Jason White, Chad Lutzke, Ross Baxter, Philip C Perron, David Bernstein, Nick Cato, Alex Laybourne, Christopher Fulbright, Angeline Hawkes, David Robbins, Robert Waters, Greg Mitchell, Ryan C. Thomas, and Eugene Johnson.
With an introduction by David Drake. Compiled by Eric S. Brown.
C.H.U.D. Lives! also features in-depth interviews with Andrew Bonime (producer) and Parnell Hall (screenwriter), as well as never before seen behind-the-scenes photos from the classic 80s horror film.
I can’t sleep. Visions of Eliot gleefully swaying his arms against a glowing backdrop haunt my dreams. I woke to his voice, talking in hushed, urgent whispers with the others.
They are beings that dwell beneath.
They are beasts that feast on flesh.
They are creatures not of this earth, and yet, they are.
Paying homage to the 1984 horror cult classic of the (relatively) same name, C.H.U.D. Lives is a collection of short horror stories based in a world plagued with NYC sewer monsters known only as Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers (or the much catchier and titular C.H.U.D.). Now, this is a rather unique take on the horror anthology, having several stories from varying perspectives centred around one piece of media, especially one different than its source material. Eric S. Brown has compiled quite the gallery of fan-based world-building, expanding a quick concept done in two hours to something that transcends its cinematic boundaries. Each story is not held back by the old medium, and translates well to the page, the variety of stories allowing for a steady pace that offers new surprises with each new tale told.
The book surrounds itself with additional content, interviews with crucial players in C.H.U.D.’s origin, providing some extra background into how the film eventually became the revered product it is today. It acts as a kind gesture towards fans, and an way to intrigue newcomers as to what made the film so endearing to its creators.
The film itself totes underlying themes of political corruption and environmental awareness that allows for more dimensions to appear more than a standard B horror picture, to which the writers take full advantage. Some tend to discuss the sheer horror of encountering such ravenous and ruthless monsters, while others lament the means of their very existence, commenting on the true source of the city’s calamity, the root of these beasts’ creation. This exploration of monster flick and green-initiative never feeling mutually exclusive to one another.
The primary location does well to help centre these tales. NYC being a hub of multiculturalism aids itself to the abundancy of perspectives and acts as an excellent backdrop to both pieces, leading to interesting locales both above and below ground. Authors paint detailed subterranean landscapes and haunting urban jungles, danger and safehouse entwined in a maze of concrete and filth.
Now as someone who had not personally seen the film beforehand, I never felt disengaged or excluded from the content I was reading. While some film characters are mentioned or even make heavy appearances in some stories, none lose the reader and have them question if they had missed integral information. This is where each author excels, investing readers in their own self-contained weave allowing for easy duck-in/duck-out reading sessions. Sharing a basic group of themes allows for a sense of coherency between tales, as if all the stories are happening in the same world and really makes C.H.U.D. Lives feel less like an anthology and more like a unified novel.
There should be something here for every horror reader. Featuring deliciously brutal descriptions of death and gore, ripe with vivid dismembering, and those with a character-oriented approach for more of an emotionally charged journey. This working in tandem with the surface-level and sub-textual themes the film promotes, lends itself to a more three-dimensional experience to keep everything fresh.
From Samsa’s Party, a very personable tale of a man’s slow descent into the throes of madness to That’s Entertainment! providing a (albeit on-the-nose) commentary on the rocky relationship between traumatic events and modern media.
However, it is important to note that with such a formidable selection of stories included, the subjectivity of quality has the hazard of being an issue for some readers, certain tales standing far higher above the others.
As ambitious and extensive as its catalogue is, many tales can feel repetitious and appear a retread of something previously written, be it similar scenarios or character backgrounds without too much iteration to help separate them. The overabundance of the homeless, death by evisceration, and the blatant mention of toxic waste (hinthint) may have worked in the timeframe of a film, but when coming from several different voices in a decently sized book, it can become rather grating. This along with both the film and the book proudly displaying its main attraction: C.H.U.D. prominently in both title and story, plots can get relatively predictable once readers are a good portion of the way through. The authors themselves also making sure readers know what the titular acronym means.
And this is ultimately where it fell short for me. While I did enjoy my time reading, I couldn’t help but want more from these stories, sensing an unearthed potential. With each story being restricted by length, no story truly had an established enough character to satisfyingly wrap, leaving many stories feeling hollow and without much life, evidently so in the ones that seek a more introspective experience.
I can see where C.H.U.D. Lives will entertain and scare, but for me it left me with something a little more to be desired.
If the beasties don’t scare you, or perhaps if they do, C.H.U.D. Lives is an interesting read for both fans and strangers alike. Unless they happen to reside in the Big Apple.
C.H.U.D. Lives can be found at Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Lxk900.