That sucking sound you hear…
Well, it may not be the renaissance of the genre, but at least it’s something different. Here we have yet another “found footage” horror film, in which a group of intrepid youngsters treks into the wilderness armed with video cameras, in search of a mythical beastie.
But Legend of the Chupacabra isn’t content to be another Blair Witch rip-off. No, like The St Francisville Experiment, it wants to be something else: an old fashioned monster movie dressed up in the current (or current in 1997) wave of documentary-style fiction. Chupacabra follows in the tradition of great livestock-based horror films like Pigs, God Monster of Indian Flats and Barn of the Blood Llama.
Purportedly a University of Rio Grande Valley School of Cryptozoology student film project, the flick begins by introducing Cryptozoology student Maria Esperanza (Katsy Joiner), who is the leader of an expedition to track down the tabloid legend. But Maria has a deeper motivation for tracking down the beast. “It killed my uncle!” she explains in an interview, fighting back the tears.
She’s joined by fellow students Pete Cortez (J.T. Trevino) and Daniel Webster (Chris Doughton), who dutifully carry around both real and fake cameras wherever they go. Also on hand is Jordan Armistad (Stan McKinney) – firearms expert, and the world’s youngest Viet Nam veteran. The gang drives down to Santa Maria, Texas, where a security camera has captured the beast on tape as it attacks an innocent herd of goats. As they approach the pen where the attack occurred, a “Holy Woman” (Sandy Schwartz) warns them of the evil at hand, hamming it up wonderfully. While the crew argues with lawmen, the Chupacabra strikes again, killing a man in the barn. Not to leave any cliché unused, a CAT! jumps out at them while they search for the monster.
A pair of local brujas (Darlene Tygrett and Brenda J. Ambrize) take time out from their psychic surgery practice to lead the expedition to the Chupacabra’s den – for 100 bucks cash. I won’t give away how this monster hunt turns out, but if you want to see a Chupacabra autopsy, this is the movie for you.
The fullscreen presentation gives a pretty good approximation of an actual amateur documentary, intercut with studio interview footage of talking head “experts” (one played by director Castro’s mom). Sometimes it seems like they’re almost taking it seriously. At other times, it seems like they’re just trying not to laugh. The acting is pretty darn bad, though one has to give the cast credit for the difficult conditions. But it’s nice to see the mocumentary medium being explored in new ways. Also nice to see that the cheesy monster movie is alive and well in Texas.
This isn’t the type of movie where the monster slinks around in the shadows, picking off stragglers. It’s a monster rampage! The Chupacabra can strike anywhere anytime, even in a crowded area in broad daylight. One wonders why there isn’t one on the TV news every night. The monster costume looks great, and I couldn’t help thinking that with the proper lighting, it would look like a very professional job. The gore and make-up effects are also impressive, especially for a low budget video project.
The DVD features a poorly-recorded commentrak with director Castro and unidentified cast and crew members – and Castro’s mother, who barges in early on during the screening, making a lot of noise as she distributes refreshments. Others come and go at different times. As a commentrak, it’s a bit lacking, but as a party it works just fine.
A couple of deleted scenes are on the disc, including an “alternate ending” which is even sillier and not as scary as the one they ended up with. A blooper scene makes no sense. There’s a “theatrical trailer” for a film never released theatrically, as far as I know.
A featurette called “Joe Castro: Special Effects Wizard” sounds like a behind-the-scenes with the director/effects artist. In reality, it’s a video sent to Troma by Castro, along with a new Chupacabra costume (different than the movie version), to explain how to put it on, so that they could use it for promotions.