CHUPACABRA TERRITORY (a.k.a. Lair Of The Beast) * USA 2016 Dir: Matt McWilliams.94 mins
Purporting to be FBI-recovered footage of missing campers in the Pine Forest region of California, this follows a quartet of obnoxious twentysomethings on a mission to prove that the ancient, mythical “Chupacabra” is alive and well and mutilating cattle / eating coyotes.
After the usual faux-news excerpts and clichéd locals (simple gas station guy, foreboding cop who threatens to – but sadly doesn’t – confiscate their cameras), the group spends over an hour getting spooked by paw prints, falling trees and changing weather patterns (“Where’d this fog come from?”). Since the film has failed to build any sense of tension or dread, writer-director McWilliams intercuts our protagonists’ plight with footage of a different camping trip, which provides an excuse for some gratuitous boobies but little else. The slow-build is characteristic of found-footage horror, but only works if accompanied by likeable characters and an escalating intensity. This movie has no one to root for (the ridiculous Wiccan character, who features in a lame, ill-timed sex scene, is particularly irritating), no atmosphere and amateurish climactic hysteria capped by the 300th reworking of the closing shot of [REC]. Incidentally, [REC] – which was terrific to begin with – looks more and more like a masterpiece the more straight-to-Asda losers like this clutter the marketplace.
Review by Steven West