Originally entitled Lair of the Beast, Chupacabra Territory is a found footage film that revolves around four friends who are searching for the mythical beast in the mysterious Pinewood Forest. Reportedly, four hikers disappeared the previous year doing exactly that and, with the help of a strange book and an odd sighting, the four current adventurers, Amber (Sarah Nicklin, The Haunting of Alice D, The Sins of Dracula), Joe (Micheal Reed, Dark Feed, Exhumed), Morgan (Alex Hayek, Hollywood Undead: Been to Hell), and Dave (Bryant Jansen, Curt’s Brain) are convinced that they are about to come face to face with the Chupacabra.
Ever since The Blair Witch Project divided horror fans, the numerous offspring of the genre continue to illicit much the same feelings. While there are numerous fans of the style of found footage, myself included, I can understand the opposing side, as some of these films can get quite tedious, predictable, and boring.
The first half of Chupacabra Territory seems to be headed in that same disappointing direction. The characters were awkward, their performances cringe-worthy, with reactions to the stranger things around played as dismissive and unrealistic. For example, the characters frequently call the Chupacabra “Chups” (pronounced like Choops), which is distracting from what is going on in the scene (although admittedly pretty funny).
There are also several times where they interact with each other more akin to high school students than grown adults who are searching for Chups, but I suppose that fits into their character arcs. For instance, Amber and Joe seem to have a small flirtation going while the other two are just along for the ride.
Later, they come across a group of hikers that happens to include attractive women. Joe makes a comment about the babes, Amber gets jealous and storms off. There is another incident where they become extremely intoxicated despite the fact that they have found decent evidence of Chups, or some other weird happenings in the woods. This could be relatable since they are young and want to party, but it distracts from the premise and just makes for pointless filler scenes.
As far as being unrealistically dismissive, the characters in this film seem to completely ignore when there are genuinely creepy things happening which really should scare them (particularly in a horror movie). One such scene sees Amber make a circle and some kind of talisman in a ritual to summon the Chupacabra. After some minutes have passed a disembodied roar can be hear in the shot from an unknown location. The group is first scared then excited, joyous that they have some proof, but then they leave less than five minutes later.
This repeatedly happens, so presumably the intention was to move the plot along, but it comes across as rushed and confuses the viewer about the motivations of the crew. They traveled all this way and a potentially paranormal being has showed itself to them, but they just seem like they are ready for the next thing. This could be taken as a statement about millennials, but it was odd that they continuously squash these opportunities.
There are other bothersome things such as characters having to deal with Chups apparently possessing people, which is a strange choice that is never explained, sexuality being expressed oddly, and the crew ignoring one of the characters vigorously masturbating beside a tree multiple times.
However, after powering through the film, the last 30 minutes blossomed into something exciting and worth watching. Chupacabra Territory is the debut feature of Matt McWilliams, who wrote and directed it. So, some of the blaring missteps could be seen as potentially someone who wanted a new twist on an overused genre taking some serious risks.
While I still feel the movie has glaring issues, both tonally and with the story in general, the last 30 minutes showcased some intense storytelling and skills at creating suspense. McWilliams ought to build on those for his next feature, because he could really have something special in him for his next project if the final moments are anything to go by.
Overall, Chupacabra Territory is a fun film to watch with horror fans and friends who may not enjoy horror alike. While there are groan-worthy moments, the movie is a fun Friday night watch where you can unwind, have some popcorn, and maybe even create a drinking game out of how many times the characters say Chups.
Catch Chupacabra Territory out on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD out now!
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Matt McWilliams
Writer(s): Matt McWilliams
Stars: Sarah Nicklin, Michael Reed, Alex Hayek
Studio/ Production Co: Baumant Entertainment, Maltauro Entertainment
Release date: April 11, 2017
Length: 90 min