Cryptozoology definitely holds a special place in the horror genre; so many films filter into both the urban legends and creature feature subgenres, normally Bigfoot and Yeti, stretching over to The Jersey Devil, and only recently did author Hunter Shea deliver a scary thrill ride on New Jersey’s fabled monster. Nevertheless, a new creature now attacking the cinema, the Chupacabra, thanks to a director, obsessed with it, Matt McWilliams, who also penned the script, both his first time for the positions, however, fret now he worked in art departments on the series The Bachelor, for example. That production and others all filtering into the genre of reality television, and hence the likely jump to ‘found footage’ most commonly used in the horror genre, especially with urban stories. In addition, found footage movies often share much in common with low-budgeted productions, such as limited sets, and few cast members, hence these films normally outside, allowing for some more freedoms afford to them. This translates to the film, in the means of blood, guts, gore, and of course a tad past the T&A standard benchmark.
For those unfamiliar with the folklore of the Chupacabra, understand the creature dates back to 1955 in Puerto Rico, with eight sheep dying from puncture marks and draining the entire blood supply. McWilliams, though the first to cover to legend, likely 10-films on the subject exist, for example in 2005, the Syfy channel aired director John Shepphird’s Chupacabra: Dark Seas and in 2014 Indigenous used a beast similar to this “chup” set in Panama, from Alastair Orr. In fact, this film, original known as Lair of the Beast, actually the first three movies on the subject of creature, from McWilliams, the other two announced projects Chupacabras (2018) and Planet of the Chupacabras.
A group of four friends Joe (Michael Reed), doubter, cynic and professional pessimist Morgan (Alex Hayek), their cameraman Dave (Bryan James) and headed by an enthusiastic Amber (Sarah Nicklin) decide they’re going to find and capture evidence to snag the Chupacabra on film for their new documentary. Most the film focuses on Amber, an amateur cryptozoologist, with background into witchcraft and natural occultist hence a mystical connection to the creature. After avoiding warnings from gas attendants and even a park ranger, they still make their way into the dense foliage into the remote north Pinewood Forest. Soon enough the team strapped with backpacks and Go-Pro Cameras, but no actual weapons, into an area known for odd animal deaths and the disappearance of other campers, isn’t finding their way, without issues. However the team supposedly has a Chupacabra book, made from the actual flesh of the beast to guide them. At first the group truly shows a positive and up-beat attitude clearly showing on the film, laughing and enjoying themselves well until Morgan becomes contaminated by the “Chup’s” gooey salvia that slowly irritates and burns into his flesh. They soon realize after discovering gored, necks bitten, and entrails removed all the classic kill signs of their infamous creature. Amber, the main character of the story, brings all attention to keep the viewer engaged to the film; she’s ready for the confrontation and refers to a book of spells, noting salt protection and other special items. Now one can’t overlook Amber summoning possession ceremony trying to spiritual connecting to the beast, which later has her engage in a self-pleasure fulfillment in the woods and even an intense passionate tent session all to understand the deeper meaningful desires of Chupacabra.
The monsters look creepy, heavily hidden from the viewers, just red glowing eyes, appearing in darkness, and night vision of the camera, however likely not frightening the horror of hardcore fans. Most of the film entertains, while not given the scares, it achieves on many other levels. As common with films of this genre, the shaky cam resurfaces, and bothersome to some, but the acting all feels even and Sarah as the standout. McWilliams’ film generates a constant storyline, with steady pacing but does wane a tad into the third act, especially with cutaways, flashbacks all breaking the growing tension as well as the CGI blood splats very fake.
Chupacabra Territory actually finds itself enjoyable, especially for the fans of actress Nicklin, however those annoying issues of the found footage genre exist, shaking images and elements of filler filtering in with ad-lib comedy lines and force dramatic moments, therefore overlook them and find entertainment, otherwise plenty of other horror films to find a thrill.
This review was originally published on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in May 2017 with a view count of 1,508.
IMDb Rating: 5.3/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10