Sunday, October 02, 2016

The Night of the Chupacabras – review

Director: Rodrigo Aragão

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

Now, I know quite often that Chupacabra films are covered under the auspices of ‘Vamp or Not?’ articles but in this case it was so definitely ‘Vamp’ that I decided to just go straight for review. This means I am going to spoil an aspect quite badly but it is necessary as we chronicle developing genre tropes and lore.

A Noite do Chupacabras, to give it the original title, is an independent Brazilian film and is far from perfect – as a piece of cinema – however I’ll say up front that I did kinda like it. Certainly it has an exploitative edge with a nice line in gore – even if the storytelling could have been sharpened up, a lot.

Dog senses the beast
It begins with a dog going nuts at night waking his owner, Pedro Silva (Markus Konká). Pedro leaves the house, carrying lantern and gun, and finds a goat dead, blood at its neck. He releases the dog, which immediately chases off into the jungle. He follows but eventually finds the dog’s body. We see something creeping in the background, given away by its glowing eyes. It is, of course, the chupacabra (Walderrama Dos Santos). As it moves towards Pedro he fires off a shot into the dark.

walking home
At a train station Douglas Silva (Joel Caetano) and his heavily pregnant wife Maria Alícia (Mayra Alarcón) have been waiting for his brother Jorge (Jorgemar de Oliveira) for an hour. They decide to walk towards the family home, following the train tracks. En route Maria Alícia wanders off towards a small cave or hollow, where a photographer is taking pictures of a jaguar that has been killed. Eventually they find Jorge and get to the farm, where mother Clara (Margot Benatti) is disapproving of the new daughter-in-law.

actual goatsucking
His other two brothers, the wheelchair bound Ricardo (Ricardo Araújo) and head injured Alzir (Alzir Vaillant), are butchering a pig to prepare it for lunch – with the intention of selling the rest of the meat. Douglas goes to find his dad, Pedro, who is burying the dog and the goat. He blames “the devil” for the deaths – the rest of the family blame the nearby Carvalho family with whom they have a feud. Ricardo has Alzir take over the burial (and tells his brother to remove the goat from the grave, they’ll sell its meat rather than the pig’s).

Silva family dinner
As the story progresses we discover various things about the family. Douglas, it seems, is a lover not a fighter and was not involved in the fight between the two families (whether he had gone to the city to study medicine at that point is not revealed). The head of the Carvalho clan tried to buy Pedro’s land but the farmer refused. The Carvalho patriarch was killed in the jungle and the clan blamed the Silvas. This led to a shootout where Ricardo was shot, making him a paraplegic, and Alzir was smashed in the head giving him brain damage. To save their lives Pedro gave away much of his land and there has been a truce since.

Pedro hunts the beast
The brothers go to sell the meat to a bar owner (Afonso Abreu), who is suspicious as the meat smells funny but gives them $30 and a bottle of booze. Douglas has gone with them when he discovered that Maria Alícia has brought some sort of drug with her (we later hear that she is an addict). It just so happens that the Carvalho boys also go to the bar, eat the meat and then end up projectile vomiting (so the bite of a chupacabra leaves the meat of the victim spoilt) and then have a bar fight with the Silvas. Meanwhile Pedro tries to lure the beast with a chicken, shoots at it and his gun explodes (something he had been warned about, with his antique firearms), and kills him.

cannibal shaman
The Silvas blame the Carvalhos for the death and go armed to get revenge. The amount of blood left in the wake causes the chupacabra to terrorise both the Silva household and the men who are fighting… And that is where I’d leave the description but there is lore to cover. Firstly, and off chupacabra, Douglas gets himself captured by a cannibal shaman, who eats part of a Carvalho, whilst casting a spell, and then rips away his own skin revealing new skin beneath. This is a case of cannibalism to maintain youth (or not quite as old).

As for the chupacabra, it drinks blood – rather than eats flesh – and with both the goat and humans it seems to go for the neck and suck the blood from there. One might ask why it has suddenly ramped up the number of attacks (because the film needed it to is the obvious answer) but it had been taking a lot of livestock previously and, generously, the amount of blood spilt was also a lure. It is very difficult to kill, being shot numerous times. The flesh of a dead victim is rotten, as mentioned, but should a victim survive… well that is the spoiler I mentioned. The chupacabra is evidently a man transformed and can pass the condition on to another person.

detail of head
Unfortunately, the film could do with some tightening up, story-wise. The cannibal shaman came out of leftfield and vanished just as quickly. There is some evidence that he killed the Carvalho patriarch (due to coins he has) but that is not capitalised on. The acting is not brilliant and not a single character is likeable (bar sister or wife Kika Silva (Kika Oliveira), who comes across as nice and helpful but is a periphery character and probably Pedro, but he is more a dramatic device than a character). Even main “hero” Douglas turns out to be a git. This makes it quite difficult to root for anyone.

All that said, despite its faults I liked this. I could have lived with 15 – 20 minutes shaved off it but, on the other hand, I loved the fact that the monster was a man in a suit, I really liked the setting and there was some nicely done gore at times. It isn’t the greatest film and 4 out of 10 seems fair balancing out the issues and the fact that it was quite good fun.

The imdb page is here.

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