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Chupacabra Terror (April 16/05)

It's impossible not to wonder if the viewer is meant to take any aspect of Chupacabra Terror seriously, as the film is swarming with hoary horror cliches and laughable instances of dialogue (ie after a group of soldiers stumbles upon a pair of bloody corpses, one pipes up, "well, they're definitely dead").

The story revolves around a doctor (played by Giancarlo Esposito) who's devoted his life to capturing a deadly, mythical monster known as a chupacabra, despite the fact that it kills without remorse and doesn't seem to have any weaknesses (it's even bulletproof). As the film opens, the doctor has just captured a chupacabra somewhere in South America, and has inexplicably decided that the best way to transport it back to the States is aboard a cruise ship (!). It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the chupacabra is eventually going to get loose and start eating the hapless revelers.

Chupacabra Terror is essentially an inferior riff on Deep Rising, though aside from the basic premise, there's not much in common between the two films. The movie is packed with lousy performances, even (surprisingly enough) among established actors like Esposito and John Rhys-Davies (who plays the cruise ship's Captain). Then again, they're not given a whole lot to work with; screenwriters John Shepphird and Steven Jankowski imbue the film with dialogue that feels as though it'd be more at home in a ZAZ-style parody (ie after arriving at the location where the chupacabra is rumored to be hiding out, Esposito's character mutters, "he's here, I can feel him"). And then there's the chupacabra itself, which couldn't possibly look more like a guy in a rubber suit.

Despite the presence of a few choice bits of gore - including an enjoyably predictable moment in which the monster chows down on an old lady's beloved puppy - the film runs out of steam with more than a half hour left to go, something that's exacerbated by the lack of victims in the last act (instead, Shepphird and Jankowski give us sequence after sequence in which the various characters attempt to hunt down the chupacabra). It's that general feeling of ineptness that prevents Chupacabra Terror from becoming anything more than a mildly entertaining horror flick, and it seems clear that the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment could only improve it (or try a drinking game, ie take a shot everytime a character flinches before being attacked by the chupacabra).

out of

About the DVD: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Chupacabra Terror with a letterboxed transfer, along with an engaging commentary track (featuring Shepphird and Jankowski) and a 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. The disc also includes bonus trailers for Vampires: The Turning, Sasquatch Hunters, XXX: Uncensored Unrated Director's Cut, Wild Things 3, The Cave, and Boogeyman.