Chupacabra Territory is put out by Maltauro Entertainment, the same people behind the slasher throwback Bloody, Bloody, Bible Camp (which was a movie I enjoyed thoroughly for its tongue-in-cheek humor and dark biting comedy). Chupacabra Territory takes a different approach to the horror genre. This movie attempts to capture a more serious and realistic tone by using the ever popular—and ever overused—found footage technique.
The real question is, does this movie bring something new or unique to this sub-genre, or does it stick to the roots and formula that have made many other found footage films so popular? (Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, etc.)
The movie begins by introducing the four main characters as they plan to take a camping trip in the Pinewood Forest to hunt the legendary chupacabra. These character’s relationships aren’t exactly clear from the beginning, nor is their reasoning for going on this hunt. At first, the movie presents them as a team of professionals who are filming a documentary about the legend of the chupacabra—and ultimately hope to capture footage of the creature on film. Three of the four team members have professional interest in the project, either for scientific reasons or for the purpose of the documentary itself. However, the fourth member of the party, Morgan, seems to have no real reason to be there besides someone to complain.
Already, this creates some confusion for us as the audience. Why is Morgan even going on this trip? Why are these people choosing to do this documentary at all? What interested them in the legend of the chupacabra?
Unfortunately, the unanswered questions only mount as the film progresses. Instantly, upon arriving in the Pinewood Forest, the film crew is warned by a park ranger to turn around because the trail is closed. The crew members blatantly ignore him and sneak into the forest anyways. This seems illogical since this is a team of supposed professionals.
After this first poor decision, it seems that the logic of the main characters only continues downhill—and any professional film crew or scientist would decide it was safer to leave and take a different approach to the project. In many ways, these types of choices make sense for the horror genre. The characters ultimately make poor decisions that lead to their untimely demise. However, when the characters and their choices are so unrealistic it’s hard to believe, it has the effect to draw us out of the movie.
Still, even with these bumps in the road, this movie has potential to be fun and entertaining. Unfortunately, the one major thing that frustrated me was the lore they built around the chupacabra. I grew up on stories and legends of the real chupacabra and came into this movie with an expectation that the creature presented here would be similar. Instead, the filmmakers took many liberties with the lore.
This isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, but if they weren’t planning on using at least some of the original legend then why call the creature a chupacabra at all? Why not just call it something else?
The filmmakers created a seemingly complex biology and conspiracy behind the creature in their film which is never explained to us as the audience. The main characters seem to know a lot about the creature and its abilities, but they never talk about it in enough detail for us to really know where any of these facts are coming from. Additionally, they have an old leather bound book that talks all about the chupacabra—but they never say where they got it.
I realize this is a found footage film and that a lot of elements get left in the dark. However, the amount of lore that is just glossed over without a second thought or explanation to us as the audience is almost unacceptable. There are many long and drawn out scenes of the characters just having fun or partying, scenes I felt could have been cut in favor of a more balanced story and a clearer explanation of the creature.
However, it wasn’t all bad. There were a few great moments in the film—moments that made me either gasp or groan in pain. Now, it’s nothing like watching a Saw film, but there was fun kill scenes. In particular, the first attack on the neighboring campers was enjoyable and the final attack at the end of the movie was great as well. The filmmakers did a good job of making the creature seem menacing with its glowing eyes in the dark and the brief glimpses of it leaping through the trees.
It also helps that many of the actors were good at playing their parts, despite how annoying their character may be. I particularly enjoyed the main character, Joe, because he seemed the most realistic of the people. He reminded me of many friends I have had through the years.
Ultimately, Chupacabra Territory is a film that tries hard, but fails in many areas. The pacing is a little slow, the lore doesn’t match the real chupacabra, and a lot of the “conspiracy” isn’t ever explored in detail. However, a few entertaining moments and some decent acting help bring the movie up a few notches. If you enjoy found footage or backwoods horror movies, maybe give this one a try. Just don’t expect anything spectacular (or any real understanding of the creature) if you do.
RATING: 2 OUT OF 5 PENTAGRAMS
Occult Concept is a horror podcast and blog focusing on discussions of horror and exploitation film from the 70's and 80's--as well as current media which is inspired by these movies.