Chupacabra Territory

      Publisher: Maltauro Entertainment 
      Label: Maltauro Entertainment
      Format: DVD
      RRP: £TBA
      Starring: Sarah Nicklin, Michael Reed, Megan Hensley, Pierre Kennel
      Directed By: Matthew Williams
      Released:  2017-04-11

 

 


Four friends hike into the Pinewood Forest to find evidence of the Chupacabra, an ancient creature believed to be responsible for the disappearance of four experienced hikers a year earlier. As they journey deeper into the forest their innocent search uncovers more than they had ever hoped for, and with it a darkness that threatens to consume their very existence.


 

The Blair Wiseau Project

 

Although it cribs openly and mercilessly from The Blair Witch Project – except the final shot, which it steals wholesale from the breakout Spanish zombie film [REC]Chupacabra Territory has more in common with car-crash masterpiece The Room than it does with any horror flick; in fact, at times it feels as if Tommy Wiseau watched the former whilst drinking heavily, suddenly became convinced that he could write a better version of the same thing, then passed out scribbling Chupacabra Territory’s script on a napkin in crayon only to wake up the next day and have his agent sell it under a pseudonym. The result is an unqualified disaster, bearing far too many of Wiseau’s hallmarks for comfort.

On the surface, the film is a pretty shameless “found footage by numbers” piece, but writer/director Matthew Williams scatters characters, plot elements and gratuitous female nudity about the film with no real rhyme or reason, other than (presumably) that he wants it there; the viewer is clearly meant to take everything at face value because it’s a film about a mystical monster, but the movie doesn’t even remain consistent with its own logic and rules. Its own central conceit, for example - that a group of young people are making a documentary as they attempt to track down the titular creature - is undermined by the inclusion of Morgan, a character who doesn’t want to be there, has no part in the documentary and can barely seem to stand the male and female leads, but is provided with no back-story or plot reason to be on the trip. He is a cinematic sore thumb, throbbing angrily and uncomfortably every time he is on screen. Sadly, however, he is not the worst served character.

Actress Sarah Nicklin, cast in the role of “cryptozoologist, psychic and occasional witch” Amber, has the dubious honour of playing the Juliette Danielle to Williams’ Tommy Wiseau; she is exploited in every conceivable way to provide the film with a secondary schooler’s notion of sexuality. In the main, this manifests itself in two laughably vulgar ways (aside from the short plaid skirt, brightly-coloured hair and lip ring which apparently makes her “punky and alternative”); firstly, there are several occasions where Amber goes dead-eyed in the middle of a sentence and then disappears off by herself to masturbate. This would appear to be under the influence of the Chupacabra, but when the opportunity to confirm that arises a different sort of mind control mechanic is introduced instead, and the masturbation – much like Paulette’s breast cancer in The Room – is never mentioned again. It’s just there because it’s there.

Secondly, at the climax of the film (no pun intended) there is a scene where, despite being hunted by an apparently supernatural monster and being in grave and immediate danger, Amber announces that in order to “see more” with her psychic powers – which hitherto have come and gone as demanded by the paper-thin plot – she must receive “the right stimulation”. As Morgan and mostly-mute cameraman Dave wander off in bemusement, only to be killed in the dark, Amber grabs male protagonist Joe by the hand and drags him into her tent for a protracted and badly shot sex scene, at the climax of which (pun intended this time) her eyes briefly flicker white and she announces that the message she has received from the other side is… that Morgan and Dave are in danger. Again, you would think this plot development would be tied into her earlier compulsive masturbation – that Amber somehow taps into sexual energy in order to cast spells or use her psychic powers – but once again this is ignored.

Compounding all of this, the film’s final act (which is blessedly short) attempts to introduce a final swerve so last-minute and so badly executed that even Steven Moffat would think twice before using it. Three characters pop up out of nowhere, including one who has not previously been so much as mentioned in dialogue, only to be killed a few minutes later. It feels unshakeably as if Williams had written himself into a corner and had no idea how to write himself out again.

There is nothing like a great found footage movie – and Chupacabra Territory really is nothing like a great found footage movie. It’s badly written, badly directed and badly acted, at best exploitative nonsense and at worst dull, misogynistic trash. The Room found an audience because it had a measure of heart; Chupacabra Territory fails because it’s fixated on another organ entirely. Avoid.


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