Movie Review: CHUPACABRA TERRITORY Is Territory Best Undiscovered

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The Chupacabra (that’s “goat sucker” to you and me, Rusty) has been a cryptozoological legend for decades with some of the first reported attacks occurring in Puerto Rico in the spring of 1995. Since then, there have been dozens of sightings of this cryptid creature. It’s that king of curiosity that will motivate a group of four friends to journey out in search of the elusive sanguine sucker.

They meet with resistance, as a park ranger initially tries to shoo them away from their intended destination. But they will not be denied and find their way back into the off limits wilderness area. Along the way they encounter another group of folks, as well as a creepy gas masked biologist. But will they discover their intended quarry – the chupacabra? And if they do, will they live to tell the tale or at least have the footage to prove it?

Found footage has become an increasingly popular method of movie making in the 18 years since The Blair Witch Project proved how truly successful it could be. But despite the fact that it is an incredibly cost effective style, the premise of the film still needs to be entertaining or at the very least interesting. There needs to be something compelling enough to urge the viewer to continue watching, and frankly this film just did not have it. In fact, I had a hard time wanting to maintain focus on it long enough to finish it.

Matt McWilliams wrote and directed Chupacabra Territory, creating a story that was frankly as lacking in originality as the cast of characters. The entire thing felt entirely too scripted and lacked any natural flow. Moments of humor can arise from tense situations in horror films, but any that can be found here do not occur organically and seem rather forced. I could find nothing endearing, relatable or otherwise creating a connection that would make me care one way or the other about the fate of these characters. Their cavalier manner and lack of preparedness made them disposable characters at best. I mean seriously…they pack plenty of beer, and maybe ONE bottle of water. And the female leader of this expedition,  Amber, is traipsing around the wilderness (bugs and briar thorns LOVE exposed flesh) in her schoolgirl skirt…yeah, that’s functional. They’re the kind of characters that Michael, Jason and Freddy wouldn’t likely waste their time on.

There was also the inclusion of a supernatural element in relation to the chupacabra that seemed entirely contrived. The idea that reading incantations from a book can create a psychic link to the creature or using salt to keep it at bay as if it were a demonic entity, is beyond outlandish. Granted, some would say the notion that this creature exists is already outlandish, but these aspects create a mythology about this cryptid that I have NEVER heard of. If they had been in the New Jersey Pine Barrens hunting the Jersey Devil…maybe it would have made sense. Or maybe McWilliams should have spent some time creating a feasible, in depth origin story about the creatures that would support the added mythos.

Although the appearance of the film wasn’t bad for the type of look you would expect from a found footage film, there are entirely too many cameras in play. Not only are they carrying handhelds but the main group are also using GoPros or something equivalent. And there are two different groups using cameras: the main group and the one that they happen upon while searching for the chupacabra.

Some of the practical effects were really pretty solid, while others were just a bit mediocre. The chupacabra is barely ever visible, save for shadowy silhouettes and the cliche glowing eyes, so I can’t really say anything about the creature’s general appearance. Also, the moments when the camera catches something that ONLY the viewer is privy too because the person holding the camera isn’t looking through the viewfinder at that moment…well, they were neither scary NOR shocking..

Chupacabra Territory is another example of found footage, that illustrates that a good story and performances that appear genuine on camera are absolutely essential. Because it’s cost effective, doesn’t utilize big expensive studio cameras and lighting rigs, requires no extravagant sets or sound stages and almost always are cast with lesser or unknown actors and actresses, is even more reason to have a solid, coherent, entertaining story that features at the very least decent performances. Beyond that…it honestly just wasn’t at all scary. Frankly, I would have been more satisfied if the group had left when the park ranger told them to and then the end credits rolled. 4 /10

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