Starring Erik Estrada, Julia Benson, Vanesa Tomasino, Nicole Munoz,
Directed by Terry Ingram
The Chupacabras of Syfy’s Chupacabra vs. The Alamo are not the red-eyed, spiny-backed, hippity hoppity, alien-esque monsters we typically envision when thinking of the goatsucker. The creature design was clearly influenced by that news story about the guy in Texas back in ‘09 who claimed to find the corpse of a dead Chupacabra that looked more like a rotting coyote (and probably was). These Chupacabras look like emaciated mongoloid hyenas or mutated chihuahuas depending on the specific angle. If you ask me, the biggest mistake Syfy made was not titling this movie Chihuahuacabras. In fact, I refuse to accept these critters as Chupacabras and will for the remainder of this review call them by the name they should have been given.
Chihuahuacabras are making their way into San Antonio via drug smuggling tunnels running under the Mexico-Texas border. They kill DEA agent Erik Estrada’s colleague and then try putting the bite on his rebellious teenage daughter. Now it’s personal! He gets his estranged gangbanger son to set up a meeting with the junior auxiliary Mexican drug cartel to convince them to go Chihuahuacabra hunting with him and some of his fellow DEA agents. Outnumbered, they’re forced to stage a last stand behind the hallowed walls of The Alamo, where traditionally last stands have not ended well for those fending off a South of the Border onslaught.
The real battle, however, isn’t between Chihuahuacabras and the Tex-Mex regulators holed up inside The Alamo. No, the real battle was evidently between the filmmakers and the budget. Chupacabra vs. The Alamo boasts what could very well be the least credible special effects I’ve seen in a Syfy flick since the olden days of Sabretooth. Contemplate for a moment what kind of ground that covers. The creature effects are hit and miss, to be polite, but when they’re a miss, it’s actually quite hysterical. The Chihuahuacabras are already amongst the least menacing looking Syfy monsters ever, and seeing these unconvincing computer effects tackling live-action victims with terminal velocity, even dropkicking humans and tossing them into the air with their surprisingly powerful jaws, is ridiculously entertaining.
There’s also no shortage of el cheapo scenery f/x shots that left me gobsmacked in the best way imaginable. The Alamo on fire looks like a matte painting someone Photoshopped some flames and smoke over. In a simple shot of people emerging from an underground hatch, you can easily discern they’re coming up from a soundstage floor amid a greenscreen shot of an actual street scene.
The real whopper goes to Erik Estrada riding his motorcycle in front of obvious real projection screens, and in a handful of instances, they even outright CGI him on his Harley into a live shot. What’s most head-scratching about these moments of vehicular fakery is that as the movie goes on, there’s no shortage of legitimate shots of Estrada and or/his stunt double riding his motorcycle, including an old fashioned motorcycle jump.
I know these Syfy flicks are made fast and cheap, but judging by the effects work, this one must have been made in a mad rush for mere pesos.
The biggest WTF moment doesn’t even involve special effects. Two teens getting hot and heavy at an outdoor Cinco de Mayo party decide to go someplace more private. They get up and walk all of about 15-20 feet to the side of the group, lay down their blanket, and prepare to have sex in full view of everyone. How is this more private?
Yet, here I am prepared to argue that all the film’s shortcomings work in favor of its entertainment value. Everyone involved is clearly aware of the sort of movie they’re making – without winking at the audience, thankfully – giving it a playful vibe that only gets amplified by the absurdity of so many of the visual effects and weird logistical decisions such as that make-out session. You’ll laugh with it. You’ll laugh at it. The important thing is you’ll be having fun.
Be warned: The first half hour is positively leaden to the point I was about to write this one off entirely. Thirty fairly underwhelming minutes go by until it finally kicks into gear as a pack of Chihuahuacabras chow down on some partying teens in one of the most uproarious monster attack scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a Syfy flick. The instant those two teens decide they need to go somewhere more private, Chupacabra vs. The Alamo begins delivering the b-movie goods.
Remember The Alamo? Better yet, remember Erik Estrada? His biggest role was as the star of the hit motorcycle cops series “CHiPs” and that was over 30 years ago. I don’t know if Estrada looked at this as his big comeback starring vehicle – it ought to be; I just know the man gives it his all, even in scenes that don’t require all. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences should create a special Emmy award for Best Hasselhoffian Performance in a Movie or Miniseries just to present it to Erik Estrada for his incredible work here. The name of his widowed DEA agent character escapes me, but it should have been “Bueno Machismo”. The guy looks like “The Mexinator” clad in a leather jacket and riding a Harley-Davidson with a shotgun visibly holstered to the side of the bike. He’s one macho hombre for whom the rules don’t apply: law enforcement procedures, motorcycle helmet laws, gun laws, traffic laws, even tourist attraction hours of operation. Erik Estrada is Bueno Machismo!
If Syfy had titled this movie Chihuahuacabras vs. Bueno Machismo, I’d have given it 5,000 knives!
3 out of 5