The Chupacabra is real and four friends will document it! Will they survive?
“Yippee! Another found footage film!”
It’s done. Stop it. It’s been done for a long time. And unless you can breathe some new life into it like the one of a kind treat Found Footage 3D from last year (see that full review here), then JUST STOP.
Chupacabra Territory is yet another found footage exercise, which not only bears resemblance to every other film of its kind from the past 17 years, but it actually borrows dialogue from the seminal found footage film, The Blair Witch Project. So much so, that the filmmakers of that original film may very well have a legit plagiarism lawsuit on their hands. I mean, c’mon.
I just can’t. With these films, I just can’t anymore.
Here’s the “story”.
Four friends venture into the Pinewood Forest to investigate recent sightings of the legendary Chupacabra creature of cryptozoology lore. A year earlier, several hikers went missing. This new group wishes to uncover the mystery of their disappearance and hopefully come face to face with the elusive monster. Be careful what you wish for. Witch/psychic/Chupacabra enthusiast Amber (Sarah Nicklin) heads the team, which includes her love interest Joe (Michael Reed), complaining skeptic Morgan (Alex Hayek) and cameraman Dave (Bryant Jansen). They meet up with several other personalities and then dangerous and creepy things begin to happen.
I’ll get the few good things (the very few) out of the way and then prepare for a disemboweling (as in the film) of everything else in this dreadful piece of filmmaking.
The performances are not great, but both Sarah Nicklin and Michael Reed manage to find some semblance of authenticity – most notably in the film’s climax, where Nicklin’s screams and cries of terror help to sell the scenes. Her possession sequence (you read that right) was also pretty cool. Reed has the most natural delivery of any of the actors, and with the terrible dialogue (I get the sense that much of the dialogue was done via improve from the actors) that can’t be easy.
There’s one good scare (yes, that’s just one) and the creature effects are not bad (although everything we see is very fleeting – a wise choice from the filmmakers).
There was also one sequence of another camping group being massacred, interspersed with smart-ass Morgan telling an over-the-top “fictional” story about what is happening to that other group. This way this sequence is edited is a clever way to show off the demise of throwaway characters (frankly, they all are).
Finally, the locations are beautiful and it’s a nice remote wilderness to set the piece.
I can’t even begin to count how many found footage films (Quarantine is the first one to come to mind) of a person lying on the ground directly in front of a tossed camera – being pulled away from the lens by some unknown monster/force/creature – screeching all the way. This happened at least four times during the course of the film, and at some point, you simply have to say, “C’mon, really?” How is it that the overuse of this particular tiresome repetition of already cliché horror tricks – continues to elude filmmakers? I just don’t get it.
The characters have absolutely no history. You won’t know who they are, where they came from or what they stand for. So it begs the question, who is the audience supposed to root for? Who are we supposed to follow? Why in the name of all that’s holy, are we supposed to care?
And as mentioned above, there’s a never-ending waterfall of clichés to be found. I do believe what so many people say, “There are no original ideas”. And that’s kind of true, but there are new ways to explore a tired idea. Again, things like Found Footage 3D took this tired formula and turned it on its ear. I find it irritating when writers/filmmakers don’t even try to mask their ripping off. And there’s a difference between paying homage to tried and true ideas, by giving a nudge to the audience, but in Chupacabra Territory, we’re meant to take this seriously.
And with that, I once again fall into my “broken-record” spiel. I’ve complained about these exact same things in dozens of previous reviews. I guess I just have to accept that crap will continue to come down the wire, and I’ll have to bitch about the same things over and over.
As for those clichés, the group stops at a rundown gas station and gets information from a creepy and cryptic local yokel. I’ve never seen that before, have you? And when squeezing the remaining juice from The Blair Witch Project, there are even scenes in the climax where a sobbing Amber says directly into the camera following the death of one of her cohorts, “I’d like to apologize to [insert name here]’s family”. And when searching for someone in the woods at night, they call out to one of the characters, “Tell me where you are, [insert name here]!” Wait, did I just hear Heather Donahue?
It brings me to the biggest take-away from this boring, unoriginal and terribly painful viewing experience. What is the point? There’s nothing new here. I can maybe see that an exercise like this would be worth it (to the filmmakers and the viewers) if a fascinating character was born from the script and that person had a crazy personal journey to take – surrounded by these crazy events. Or maybe, if some brand new technology was now available to found footage filmmakers, and holy crap, we’ve gotta use this! Or perhaps, if the filmmakers had at their disposal an Oscar-winning screenwriter, who after winning three times, simply had to dip their feet into the found-footage sub-genre. That’d be worth checking out, right? Some legitimate or mildly intriguing reason to continue with this type of filmmaking. Anything!
Bottom line – other than a very few reasonably decent pieces, Chupacabra Territory is just awful.
The tagline says, “Dare to enter.” Allow me to hijack that and use it to cement my review: “Dare to watch.” You just knew that was coming.
Chupacabra Territory is now available on DVD/BluRay and VOD.