SyFy may be the network that rebooted Battlestar Galactica to great acclaim, but these days it specializes in irony: cheap, silly made-for-TV movies that emulate mockbuster studio The Asylum. That’s particularly obvious in DVR-confusing titles like American Horror House and True Bloodthirst, but SyFy also shares The Asylum’s love of cheeseball creature features with “Vs.” in the titles: Pegasus Vs. Chimera, Dinocroc Vs. Supergator, and, now, Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo. That’s right: The mythical goat-suckers are on the loose in central Texas, and only Erik Estrada and Lt. Vanessa James from Stargate Universe can stop them by holing up in Texas’ most famous landmark.
Except Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo doesn’t quite understand where San Antonio, home of the Alamo, lies. The subtitles in the opening shot of the 90-minute movie note the location is the U.S./Mexican border just southeast of San Antonio. That would need to be a good 150 miles southwest of San Antonio to be at the Mexican border—anything southeast of the city would be between San Antonio and Corpus Christi or Houston, and nowhere near the Mexican border. Director Terry Ingram might have caught that had he shot in Texas, but save for some b-roll of San Antonio, Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo was shot in British Columbia, according to the credits. Where are those Pace Picante commercials when you need them? “Brit-ish Colum-bia?!” “Get a rope.”
But that’s the fun of these movies, isn’t it? Picking them apart and giggling at their mistakes? Viewers need not have grown up in Texas to enjoy the silliness of Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo, but Texans will get an extra chuckle knowing the area around the Alamo looks nothing like the place Erik Estrada and his Asian-looking son, Tommy, blow up at the end. Spoiler alert!
No, everyone can enjoy the hilariously bad green screen of Estrada, who plays a DEA agent named Carlos, riding a motorcycle (naturally) around the countryside. And even people with the most rudimentary understanding of Spanish will chuckle at the comically “ethnic” dialogue, which sounds like it was written by someone whose experience with the language barely surpasses Mexican food menus. Some examples:
- Estrada to some toughs: “What are your little friends gonna say when this gramps here beats you like a piñata?”
- A tough to Estrada: “You’re like a bad cucaracha that just won’t stay away!”
- Estrada to his bratty teenage daughter: “Fine, go live with your brother. Maybe your life will turn into one big fiesta!”
- Estrada’s bratty daughter: “Grounded? It’s Cinco De Mayo!”
And when writer Peter Sullivan—whose writing credits include The Dog Who Saved The Holidays, The Dog Who Saved Halloween, The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation, and many others—couldn’t think of any other words he learned from folk songs, he liberally sprinkled his dialogue with “jefe” and “ese” to make up for it. ¡Dios mio! (That’s in there too.)
The legend of the chupacabra is a surprisingly recent one, dating to the mid-’90s and a series of attacks on livestock in Puerto Rico and Mexico. The stories go that the animals were drained of blood, and the attackers left no trace. The descriptions of them ranged from dog-like creatures to bear-like to something like the alien in the movie Species—and let’s not forget the X-Files episode “El Mundo Gira.” But in 2010, scientists revealed that these monsters were in fact coyotes suffering from advanced mange, a painful, life-threatening illness that causes hair loss and severe fatigue. (That’s why affected animals go after livestock—easy pickings.)
In Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo, the chupas have come into Texas via a drug-smuggling tunnel. At first, Estrada scoffs when his new partner, Julia Benson, suspects something more than cartel wars when bodies turn up. But as attacks mount in the San Antonio area, Estrada has to team up his DEA crew with his estranged son’s gangsta posse to save the city.
The chupacabras are, as expected, rendered in stilted CGI. They look like emaciated dogs, though a nerdy pathologist explains that they’re dogs “no more than the fact that Einstein and a chimpanzee are both some kind of primates. One created the theory of relativity. The other throws its feces.” Apparently they’re infected with rabies and possess extraordinary strength, which explains why something the size of a Russell terrier can fling a man across a room. They’re also inconsistently sized; some look like big pit bulls; others, like the ones that attack Estrada’s house, are Chihuahua-sized—small enough to fit into a microwave, where one meets a sad end.
As cheap as Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo is, it doesn’t skimp too much on the splatter. Estrada’s daughter takes care of one chupa with an electric carving knife. The sarcastic pathologist cuts into a chupa’s head with a saw. Tossing some corn syrup dyed red is cheap, so that’s what viewers will mostly see. There are a couple close-ups of bodies, but nothing too gruesome. People who’ve seen Peter Jackson’s early work—Bad Taste and Dead Alive—may recognize some welcome prankishness in the effects, as in one scene where a limb gets torn off and a teenager’s penis meets a bad end.
Once the chupas penetrate the city, it’s up to Estrada and his misfits to take them on (“Chupa this!” he says while taking one out), which they do at a warehouse and then, finally, at the Alamo—with muskets left over from the men who fought there. And some C4. In the end, Estrada reunites his family, earns the trust of his new partner, and saves the city. The Alamo doesn’t fare so well.
Chupacabra Vs. The Alamo lives up to its silly title, and it should please people looking to looking for some bad TV to mock. Asking for anything beyond that is loco, ese.
- Writer Peter Sullivan doesn’t seem too familiar with how gangsta types talk, either. At one point, one of them says “You know what it is, shorty. I’m down for the hood!”
- The shots for locations that couldn’t be faked are green-screened with still photos, so at a couple points we see the cast unconvincingly walking down an exterior hallway or emerging into the night under the San Antonio skyline. (Though that part probably didn’t need to be faked—who would recognize it? Sorry, San Antonio. I don’t think anyone would recognize my hometown of Houston, either.)
- This movie would have only been improved by the addition of Nick Kroll’s Chupacabra character. Koo koo ri koo! Also the Baby, Old Man Juarez, and The Goat!