Heading into the unknown in search of a mysterious beasts armed with little more than your wits and a snazzy camera has long been a template for aspiring filmmakers when approaching the found footage format. Bigfoot is a popular protagonist, but for his film Matt McWilliams has chosen the elusive American nasty, the Chupacabra. Generic, familiar and largely frustrating, Chupacabra Territory (or Lair Of The Beast depending on your preference) does at the very least bring something new to the canon: here the lead, who happens to be both student zoologist and chanting witchette, using masturbation and sex to help her commune with the spirits of the forest. Well, she would wouldn’t she.
Said horny mystic-cum-nature lover is Amber (Nicklin), who along with sweet-on-her-but-hasn’t-told-her Joe (Reed) is convinced of the mythical creature’s existence. Dragging along reluctant cameraman Dave (Jansen), who only offers some enthusiastic screaming when required, and cynic Morgan (Hayek, channelling his best Judd Nelson from The Breakfast Club), the unlikely group of explorers head out. Together they encounter suspicious locals, secretive cops, random hikers and the malevolent namesake of the piece.
As a horror film, Chupacabra Territory doesn’t work. The characters are unengaging to the point of unlikeable, leaving you with no-one to root for, and the supporting cast flit in and out of the film often for little or no apparent reason. The monsters are seen only through glimpses in the dark, and while not fundamentally an issue, here it feels like a lack of confidence.
As a found footage film, Chupacabra Territory does everything you would expect, without doing any of it particularly well. The GoPro is the new weapon of choice, and at least brings some camera justification, but you have to work hard to see what is going on at times, and this creates an unwelcome feeling of nausea. There’s also the genre-old issue of understanding who’s filming whom, when and why, and once you start questioning the mechanics, like our hapless foursome, there really is no way back.
Low budget, independent filmmaking must be supported, and there is no doubt everyone involved with Chupacabra Territory is really trying but sadly the film is let down by a flimsy premise and rough script that never feels entirely coherent. There is some mild menace, but no more than what is created simply by waving a camera around in the dark with some scary noises being made off screen. And then there’s the masturbation. Right…
CHUPACABRA TERRITORY (LAIR OF THE BEAST) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: MATT MCWILLIAMS / STARRING: SARAH NECKLINE, MICHAEL REED, ALEX HAYEK, BRYANT JANSEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW