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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Chupacabra Territory (Blu-ray)
Chupacabra Territory (Blu-ray)
Other // Unrated // April 11, 2017 // Region Free
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jesse Skeen | posted October 26, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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"Found-footage" movies, which we're supposed to believe are actual home movies often made by someone who met a horrific end, have seemed like a good concept ever since 1999's The Blair Witch Project made them popular. The problem I had with that movie in particular though was that it just wasn't believable as being what it was supposed to- particularly I seriously doubted that people shooting an actual documentary would waste their resources recording themselves arguing with each other. While it might have been decided those scenes were necessary to advance the narrative or at least help the audience make sense of things, it brought serious doubt into the assumption that I was watching footage left behind by people who went missing while shooting it. There have been quite a few copycat films since then, as well as others that take the approach of being "real" footage of something happening. "Chupacabra Territory" like Blair Witch takes the approach of a documentary gone wrong.

Livestock has been turning up killed and brutally disemboweled, and hikers have gone into the wilderness only to never be heard from again. It seems the cause of all this is a creature called the chupacabra, which hides in the shadows and quickly strikes at night unseen. A group of four decides to face this creature head-on, making a documentary that will show the world what he really looks like. Dave (Bryant Jansen, who is credited with the actual camerawork here) is the main cameraman, Joe (Michael Reed) provides on and off-screen narration for the documentary, Amber (Sarah Nicklin), a sometimes-practicing witch and believer in all things occult is the brains behind the project, and Morgan (Alex Hayek) doesn't really want to be there but gets dragged along for some reason. At the beginning we're told that all four went missing, but their (digital) cameras were found and under the "Freedom of Information Act" everything on them will now be presented to the public.

As in Blair Witch we first see them packing up and driving to the remote forest location where they'll be hunting down the mystery creature, talking about it on the way. Unfortunately the real filmmakers make their first big mistake here, as we see an exterior shot of the car driving, shot from atop one of the hills being passed! If this were actual raw footage and that had been shot by them for dramatic effect, we would have seen one of them get out of the car, set that shot up, and then get back in, but it appears at this point someone forgot this was a found-footage movie and just thought that shot would look good in it. Later there's even a rather fancy shot of the car driving OVER a camera, which would have been far too complicated for these people to set up much less have it end up the way it's presented here. It was very hard for me to buy into the concept after that, but even overlooking that it's hard not to notice the bad acting of the few people the group runs into as they make their way up. When stopping for gas they meet a crazy old guy who claims that the chupacabra gouged one of his eyes out, and when they finally reach the trail they intend to go down a ranger stops them saying that it's closed and they "all best keep the hell out," also repeatedly asking them to stop recording him. He especially breaks the illusion as his lines sound completely rehearsed. To the other four's credit though, they put on much more convincing performances. They decide to just wait until the ranger leaves and go on into the trail anyways. At this point, everyone straps a small camera to their head.

They walk down the trail into the forest, searching for signs of the chupacabra. They soon run into another group of hikers including several attractive women, apparently there just for fun and heading in a different direction. As night falls they set up camp, where the found-footage theme is broken again by showing a time-lapse of the group setting their tents up as well as a couple of the night sky, which would have looked nice in a traditional narrative but is far out of place here. This is also the point where things start to get scary or at least try to, as strange sounds are heard in the darkness which must be the chupacabra himself. Although others seeking the creature out weren't heard from again, as filmmakers these people feel it's their duty to head into the darkness and try to at least get him on camera. The narrative really starts to fall apart here as the movie cuts to cameras from the othergroup of people they'd run into earlier- they've set up their own campsite and hope for a night of sex and drinking. They aren't out to make a documentary, and while it's perfectly believable that they'd have something capable of shooting video with them anyways, there doesn't appear to be any point to the things we see from them except to advance the story in what we're supposed to believe is raw footage. To further nit-pick, on-screen text appears throughout indicating not only the location but also the time of day, something that would have only been included in a finished documentary and likely wouldn't even have been known to anyone who wasn't actually there.

Picture:

Another challenge of these types of movies is making them look "too good" or being amateurish to the point of unwatchability (some audiences can't handle a shaky camera, as I saw first-hand working at a theater showing Blair Witch.) Here the cameras are reasonably stable, possibly owing to the character of the main cameraman being good at what he does as well as the automatic stabilizing found in modern digital cameras. The only distraction here is a few added digital and analog glitches, which seem to come up mostly when the situation turns chaotic. The entire feature is shown at 24 frames per second, which I've never liked the look of from digital video but as those cameras do have that option we can just assume that's what Dave preferred. On Blu-Ray the picture also looks very clear and detailed, which doesn't seem unrealistic either- and with a number of smaller movies being released only on standard DVD it's good to see this get a true hi-def presentation.

Sound:

The 2-channel audio mix, presented on Blu-Ray in standard Dolby Digital, fits the material sounding natural without any post-production meddling. Most of the dialogue is easy to understand yet doesn't sound overproduced or ADR'd as we're supposed to believe it all being on the spot. The stereo effect is similar to that of camcorders with built-in stereo microphones, giving ambient sounds a wide presence. While it seems that in real life that would also keep the speaking from being centered as it is here, I'll let that one slide. The disc includes hearing-impaired subtitles, which break some of the suspense as they specifically identify some of the off-screen sounds as being from the "chupacabra" rather than leaving one to wonder where they came from.

Extras:

An "Interview With the Cast" has the four main actors talking about their experience, which seems to have been mostly fun- production footage is also seen here. Another segment has director Matt McWilliams (whose main credits are the reality show "The Bachelor"- well, I guess you have to pay the bills somehow), executive producer Christopher D. Maltauro and editor Carlos Ramirez talking about the concept and production, with clips from a short "prototype" done to sell the movie before its production. Finally there's a trailer and slide-show of production stills accompanied by some ambient sound effects.

Final Thoughts:

"Chupacabra Territory" isn't anything remarkable, and borrows quite a bit from The Blair Witch Project with enough oversights to break the intended effect that you're watching something that actually happened. The four main actors make this watchable however, with characters far more likable than that other movie, and the movie is a bit of fun if you don't take it too seriously.

Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.

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