Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vamp or Not? el Chupacabra


As we look at this 2003 film, directed by Brennon Jones and Paul Wynne, we will examine two questions. Firstly should this film be classed as vamp? Secondly, should the el Chupacabra myth itself fall into the vampire category?

I am sure many of you will be aware of el Chupacabra. A favourite of Fortean magazines and websites, el Chupacabra are creatures, often filed under crypto-zoology, that hail mainly from Puerto Rico and Mexico and are known for sucking the blood from goats – indeed the name means goat sucker.

In this movie we see a truck pull up, the driver is met by Mason (Layton Mathews). The truck itself contains a sedated el Chupacabra, which has been fed on chickens. The truck interior is dark. The driver makes a comment about light bursting their eyes (not precisely true) and then adds that the light is broken anyway. He enters the truck and we hear sounds of an attack. The driver tries to escape and a grey, almost primate hand emerges and pulls him back in. We see a side head shot of el Chupacabra – though not in detail.

scars from an attackA radio broadcast is overhead by Pablo (Victor López) about animal attacks and mutilations. He tells his cousin Navarro (Eric Alegria) that *it* is here… referring, of course, to el Chupacabra. Navarro works for animal control and doesn’t believe in such things. Pablo tells him that its m.o. is to “suck blood like a vampire”. He also says that it should be treated with respect and to mention its name is a curse. Pablo has scars from when he survived an attack by el Chupcabra whilst living in Mexico.

Elina Madison as StarlinaStarlina Devine (Elina Madison) is signing copies of her book about el Chupacabra. The next man in queue, we later discover to be Goodspeed (Treach), rips into her beliefs and causes an altercation that leads to her expulsion from the store. During the altercation Goodspeed denies the existence of such creatures and brings Dracula into the discussion – but introducing Stoker's book was a dialogue stretch.

Noriega and SophiaNavarro is looking into the attacks on animals and is approached by Starlina – though he doesn’t want anything to do with her. When the attacks escalate to people two cops, Noriega (Jerry Rodriguez) and Sophia (Calvi Pabon), are drawn into the plot – cynics who want Navarro nowhere near their crime scenes and who do not believe in el chupacabra, until the very end when suddenly Noriega wants to capture the beast for the $5m reward.

Treach as GoodspeedOf course Navarro and Starlina end up working together and find their investigation hindered by Mason, who works for Goodspeed. Goodspeed works for the CDC and already has a female captured, the one on the streets is a male and he wants it.

fang marksThe film throws everything except the kitchen sink at the myth. What we actually establish are that they are nocturnal, they suck blood – leaving traditionally vampire like fang marks, and they tend to use claws to rip open the stomach – a non-fatal (immediately) but disabling attack and shredding the arm and leg muscles – preventing escape and fighting back.

el chupacabraMost other lore comes from Starlina and may or may not be accurate. She states that they are telepathic – hence the big heads. There is very little evidence of this although the two el Chupacabra do appear aware of each other nearby. Indeed she states that the creature is migratory and it seems that only the presence of the female has kept the male in the city.

She also mentions the idea that they might be related to grey aliens. What the filmmakers are doing is throwing in every bit of conspiracy and Fortean lore they can get their hands on as either they think it sounds cool or to highlight the many urban legends building around the myth – I’ll let you decide what you believe their reasons were.

el chupacabra feedingSo should the el Chupacabra - the real world myth - be classed as part of vampire lore? I’d say yes. The myth itself seems very like the European peasant myths that birthed the traditional vampire, in that a creature is invented so that something can be blamed for their woes. It may, myth wise, or may not be supernatural and it has a chapter dedicated to it in “Vampires: a Field Guide to the Creatures that Stalk the Night.” In that book the creature is tied, by author Dr Bob Curran, to the Zuni Indians’ ‘Devil Men’ myth, a vampiric race of little grey men that attacked herds and were first documented in the 16th century.

Eric Alegria as NavarroHowever, the myth has spiralled out of control with ties in with aliens, cattle mutilations and so forth. Thus any movie based on the el Chupacabra should be looked at individually on its vampiric merits. In this case we have a low budget film, poorly acted and using very shaky camera work, which throws in every permutation of the myth. What we see, however, is a fanged, blood sucking, vaguely humanoid creature – natural not undead – that shies from light and is fast and strong. It just about falls into the vamp area – it’s just not a good film.

The imdb page is here.


coffee said...

out of all the mythical, blood sucking creatures out there, the Chupacabra is almost certainly the sneakiest

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Coffee - sneaky, perhaps, in that it has sneakily avoided a decent film representation!!!

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