In my last review (for the blandly inane
Vampires: The Turning) I yearned for a moronic B-movie that could be as stupidly entertaining as it is technically inept. And all it took was the presence of something called Chupacabra Terror to deliver what I was asking for. Every conceivable component of the movie - the comically amateurish acting performances, the head-slappingly stupid screenplay, the dry-as-paint directorial approach, the gore-soaked "guy in a rubber suit" monster, the goofball CGI cruise ship used in the various establishing shots -- just screams of accidental entertainment.
Since the flick debuted this past January (as Chupacabra: Dark Seas) on the Sci-Fi Network, the astute genre freaks out there are already well aware of how amazingly bad the movie will be. Aside from a stray broadcast of Dog Soldiers, you're never going to find a "good" movie playing on the Sci-Fi Network. Ever. And that goes double if the movie happens to have a "Sci-Fi Original" brand attached to it. Don't believe me? Try a triple feature of Webs, Frankenfish, and Snakehead Terror and then get back to me.
John-Rhys Davis (yes, Gimli himself) plays the captain of a swanky cruise ship (of which we get to see maybe four rooms). Giancarlo Esposito (a long way off from Do the Right Thing) is the wide-eyed cryptozoologist (giggle) who has recently captured one of the planet's most obscure (and bloodthirsty) beasts: the legendary Chupacabra of South America! (Picture the Creature from the Black Lagoon covered with Vaseline.)
For some hilariously arcane reason, our intrepid lunatic hunter opts to cart his evil beastie back to the United States ... by way of a luxury liner. So basically we're looking at The Love Boat with more bloodshed and sillier dialogue. How silly? Try these exchanges on for size:
Petulant (and busty) daughter: Dad, what the hell's going on?
Captain Gimli: Jenny, get back to your cabin.
Daughter: I'm really tired of getting the mushroom treatment!
Lantern-jawed hero-type: Mushroom treatment? What's that?
Daughter: Being left in the dark and fed a lot of crap!
And just a few minutes later we meet two drunken stewards who have their party interrupted by a harrowing screech:
Moron #1: What was that?
Moron #2: Seagull?
#1: That was one huge seagull.
#2: Albatross, maybe.
#1: How would an albatross get in here?
(Another terrifying shriek.)
#2: Whatever it is, that is huge!
#1: Hey, come on man, let's go. This is freaking me out.
#2: Take it easy, wimp boy. Let's go check it out!
(Keep in mind that this conversation occurs long after the Captain has ordered everyone into their cabins for emergency reasons.)
#1: I ain't goin' up there! Hey, come on man. Let's split!
(Moron #2 runs up the stairs with a bottle in his hand while going "OooOoOOOoooohh!!" as if to mock Moron #1.)
#2: (from above) Bok bok bok!! Ha ha! (Pause) Oh, no. Oh, no. What is that? No! Get off! OMG NO! AAAAArrrrgghHHhhHH! AAAAGG... (Silence)
#1: Yeah, yeah, very funny!
(Moron #2 hits the floor covered in what looks a lot like Hershey's Chocolate Milk Syrup.)
Seriously folks. We're talking about screenwriters who either don't know how to write ... or couldn't be bothered to come up with something better than something this insipid.
And if that stuff doesn't have you howling with laughter, just wait till you get a look at the junior army men who show up to combat the Chupacabra wearing spray-painted biking helmets. Or the aforementioned hero character who's so astute that he can't open an oven without scalding his fingers. Or the marines who, despite slamming 43,000 rounds into the goopy beast, never actually realize that it's bulletproof. (Yes, bulletproof.)
Why John Rhys-Davies would sign on for something so silly after depositing his Lord of the Rings paychecks is beyond me, but hey, any guy who was in that trilogy and the Indiana Jones movies deserves a break. But what of Giancarlo Esposito? And what's with his on-again off-again accent that sounds like a cross between Jamaican, Indian and Brooklyn? Ah well, an actor's gotta eat, and second billing in Chupacabra Terror is better than first billing in the unemployment line.
Frankly I'd be willing to bet serious money that all involved with Chupacabra Terror are well aware how sincerely bad their movie is. (I look forward to the included audio commentary for just this reason.) They'd probably read my criticisms and assume I just don't get the joke. But I do! That's why I can kinda sorta actually recommend Chupacabra Terror (a little) - but only to those of us who revel in all things B-movie-retarded and 100% MST3K-worthy. Yes, this is precisely the sort of movie that would have found a perfect home with the Mystery Science Theater boys. The sets look like plaster, the actors look like accountants, and the monster looks like the 9th place winner at your local Halloween Ball. It's all very ridiculous and cheesy and ineptly constructed .. which is precisely why it's also kind of fun. Plus it offers a solid body count and lots of gooey gore, which always helps (at least a little).
Video: Here's a Widescreen Anamorphic transfer which, given the technical quality of the movie at hand, looks pretty darn solid. (All things being relative, of course.)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English. Certainly better than it must have sounded back on the Sci-Fi Network, but nothing too phenomenal either.
Audio Commentary with writer/director John Shepphird and writer/producer Steve Jankowski - Producer Steve Jankwoski opens the yak-track by mistakenly referring to his movie as Chupacabra: Dark Voyage and that may be the highlight of the commentary. The duo are completely devoid of irony, somehow (still!) under the impression that they made an admirable (albeit low-budget) film. Sadly, much of the commentary is devoted to the narration of the onscreen action.
"Ah, and here's where we learn that the doctor is not such a nice guy..."
"See this goat? That goat actually belonged to one of the cast members."
"We waited three months to get this shot of the moon."
"And here's the infirmary, which is not actually an infirmary but a community college!"
"That's what's kinda neat. You get to sometimes use shots from other movies when you make a movie!"
"So many people on this film...collaborated."
Frankly I don't know what's more irritating about this commentary: the non-stop narration of what's easily one of the most simplistic movies ever made - or the fact that these guys talk about the flick like it's something worth celebrating. I was so hoping to hear an audio track full of self- (and movie-) deprecating humor, but the pair just ramble on and on mercilessly, full of equal parts pretension and delusions of mediocrity.
Featurette: Making of Chupacabra - Creature FX designers Ken Niederbaumer and Mark Viniello open with some "Chupacabra" background before actor Dylan Neal expresses his own confusion regarding the creature. ("It's like Bigfoot, I guess.") Director John Shepphird stops in to discuss his favorite word, "cryptozoology," before comparing his creature to grasshoppers and fleas. Cinematographer Neal Brown expounds upon the emotional content of the film ... and things just get goofier from there. It helps up the entertainment value for the viewer that everyone seems to take the movie so darn seriously. Comprised mostly of FX footage, brief interview segments, and copious clips from the film, this featurette runs just about 12 minutes.
Previews - Sony trailers ahoy: Vampires: The Turning, Sasquatch Hunters, XXX: Director's Cut, Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough, Boogeyman and (one that actually looks pretty good) The Cave.
You already know if this is a movie you want to see. If indeed it is, then I suggest you acquire the following things prior to your Chupacabra Terror experience: a few rowdy friends, two or three pizzas, and just enough beer (or weed) to make this movie watchable. It won't take all that much, actually, because the flick's so just so darn hilarious. And it's the sort of hilarity that only occurs when nobody's trying to be funny.