Chupacabra Territory (2017)
Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman(Release Date: April 11, 2017)
Found-footage horror became a subgenre unto itself following the enormous acclaim and box-office success of 1999's chilling groundbreaker "The Blair Witch Project
," directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. Eighteen years later, it is vital a filmmaker daring to delve into this overworn style of storytelling find a fresh angle from which to tackle it. Otherwise, the results too often resemble "Chupacabra Territory," arguably one of the worst and most obnoxious of the "Blair Witch" imitators. Writer-director Matt McWilliams is shameless in how derivative he makes his every narrative beat. A group heading into the woods to investigate a local legend? Check. A harbinger who warns them of the lurking danger? Check. An intrepid, know-it-all female leader who might as well have "Heather Donahue wannabe" stamped on her forehead? Check. Shaky chases through darkened underbrush? Check. Tearful last rites and apologies to the camera as it becomes likely they won't be making it out alive? Check, save for the crying part; these actors simply aren't very convincing and specialize in tears of the crocodile variety.
While the three protagonists at the center of "The Blair Witch Project
" were student filmmakers who appeared to be fairly serious about digging into the history and lore of the Blair Witch, the ragtag group herepurported cryptozoologist Amber (Sarah Nicklin), best guy friend Joe (Michael Reed), skeptic of the group Morgan (Alex Hayek), and cameraman Dave (Bryant Jansen)resemble nothing more than foolish troublemakers who enter the North Pinewood Forest to search for the notorious Chupacabra as a motive-free lark. They do not seem particularly interested in digging into the legend, but their eyes and ears perk up whenever they stumble upon disemboweled, castrated animal carcasses. When they run into a trio of fellow hikers searching for their missing friend, they do not waste a moment inviting them to come party at their campsite. And, when Amber witnesses with her own eyes a creature with glowing red eyes chasing her, does she decide to pack up her belongings and haul out? No. This quartet of rocket scientists never appear to be lost in the woods, but they stay put in the wilderness all the same even as the evidence escalates as to the imminent danger surrounding them.
Fictional cinéma vérité
requires an air of realism above all else. Without that, the crucial spell dies on the vine. "Chupacabra Territory" fails entirely on this level, and others as well. Occasional camera angles are illogical for found-footage material. Performances are unctuous, trying too hard to emulate what the actors have seen from past films of this sort. Characters are unsympathetic and irritating, doing all the wrong things at all times. The plot, as straightforward as it is, still manages to lose its way in a mucky possession subplot and superfluous sidetracks (a scene where a character pulls a prank and pretends to be dead is solely on hand to provide exploitative nudity). There is no tension built and zero scares achieved as the title legend makes itself known because every single beat is so exceedingly familiar and uninspired. The only thing director Matt McWilliams is successful at is in making the viewer count the minutes until everyone onscreen is dead, and this seems to be inadvertent. Those who dare sit through the entirety of "Chupacabra Territory" right before bedtime can be assured of one thing: a deep, restful sleep.
"Chupacabra Territory" prowls onto Blu-ray with an attractive 1080p transfer. Though the POV shaky-cam technique is in full force, the digital photography is razor-sharp, with pronounced textural and facial details and an overall excellent clarity. Though grain is virtually nonexistent and the digital cameras give the image an antiseptic feel, this is accurate to source and to be expected. Black levels are additionally deep, and colors in daytime scenes are especially vivid. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fairly standard for a 2017 horror title, but this is not a slight on the audio presentation. Dialogue is intelligible, sound effects effectively lurk into the surround channels, and overall the mix is full and well-balanced.
- Interview with the Cast (10:44, HD)
- An Interview with Director, Editor and Producer (6:23, HD)
- Trailer (1:43, HD)
- Photo Gallery (4:48, HD)
When found-footage horror pictures work, they often work like gangbusters. When the only purpose for their existence is to ape past superior examples of the subgenre without understanding what made them successful in the first place, they look uncannily like "Chupacabra Territory." Maltauro Entertainment brings "Chupacabra Territory" to Blu-ray with solid technical specs and a few nice interviews. Sadly, the film itself is terrible, neither involving nor frightening on any level. It is frustrating, however, and a game could potentially be made counting the ways in which it annoys the viewer. As a passionate supporter of indie horror making its way to the Blu-ray format, I do not want to discourage fellow genre and HD enthusiasts from supporting the label and picking up this title. Just temper expectations and know what kind of film you are in for.