Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Friday afternoon. I went to the dentist for the second of what will
hopefully be only three parts of the worst root canal of my life.
I came home a hurting puppy, though not a butt-ugly hurting puppy
like those in Chupacabra vs. the Alamo, which aired Saturday night
on the SyFy Channel.  I had to take two Vicodin and was reduced to
a barely sentient creature for the rest of the night, sort of like
Erik Estrada in Chupacabra vs. the Alamo.

Saturday morning and afternoon.  I wrote a whole bunch of stuff for
a whole bunch of projects before running out of steam.  The timing
was perfect for me to watch Chupacabra vs. the Alamo.  My Sainted
Wife Barb even watched about half of the movie with me, horrified
by my love for cheesy monster movies.  But I think she also began
to understand my love for these underachieving flicks.

I’m hurting.  I’m tired.  I don’t want great art. I want the movie
equivalent of comfort food.  Give me a bowl of popcorn.  Sit me in
front of the TV watching a monster movie and I am once again that
relatively carefree boy who watched Ernie “Ghoulardi” Anderson beam
Attack of the Crab Monsters and Beast From 20,000 Fathoms into my
dark Cleveland living room and into my brain.

The movie’s quality or lack thereof isn’t what matters to young/old
Tony sitting in his much bigger dark family room and watching the
film on a much bigger flat-screen TV.  What matters is whether or
not I enjoyed the movie.  Which I surely did.

My friends, I give you the good, the bad and the ugly of Chupacabra
vs. the Alamo
.  Pass the popcorn amongst yourself.

GOOD: The basic concept of a pack of chupacabras making their way
from Mexico to Texas via a tunnel used to transport illegal drugs.
However, just so there’s no question about this, I am not in favor
of a path to citizenship for these particular illegal aliens.

BAD: That freaking tunnel was too big to be believable. If he were
a federal agent, Mister Magoo could have found that tunnel.  As it
was, the DEA didn’t seem to be at all surprised by it. Was someone
being paid off by the drug cartel?

GOOD AND UGLY: Though their CGI movements were jerky at times, the
chupacabras looked good and ugly to me.  Like really ugly underfed
dogs.  One at a time, they could be dealt with.  It was their vast
numbers that made them honestly scary.

DISAPPOINTING: Erik Estrada just didn’t seem to be feeling it as he
shot the movie.  His character had plenty of dramatic opportunities
- his grief for his late wife, his frustration with his children,
his acerbic nature - but he stumbled through them.  What I assumed
was supposed to be his big line - “Chupa this!” - was embarrassing
as soon as he said it.  If an actor isn’t going to have fun with a
movie like this, he should pass on the role.

DISAPPOINTING AND DUMB: All those scenes of Estrada on a motorcycle
with the bargain-basement green screen background flashing by.  We
know he was the star of CHIPS and understand the obsession to pay
homage to that, but a motorcycle isn’t exactly the best vehicle for
DEA or most other police work.   

SO-SO: That would be almost all the actors.  The best of the bunch
were Stargate veteran Julia Benson and Vanesa Tomasino.

COMICALLY BAD: They sure went through the dispensable characters in
a hurry, didn’t they?  After they killed off all the high-schoolers
save for Estrada’s daughter, they had to recruit a new bunch of red
shirts in the form of fellow DEA agents and Estrada’s son amazingly
understaffed gang.

STUPIDLY BAD: Chupacabras are eating people like San Antonio was an
all-you-can-eat buffet and how do the various authorities respond?
Estrada’s boss bitches him out for violating protocol, the locals
whine about Estrada crossing their crime scene to save his daughter
and the National Guard can’t get to one of Texas’ biggest cities -
where they most likely have a base - until the next day.  Oh, yeah,
and nobody bothers to alert public buildings like the Alamo about
the blood-sucking monsters in their midst.

GOOD: Points to Estrada’s daughter and her doomed best friend for
holding their own for a time when the chupacabras followed them to
Estrada’s house.

BAD: Estrada sends his daughter and her doomed best friend to his
house which is only two miles away from where their classmates got
eaten.  What was he thinking?

GOOD: Lots of action and even suspense.  Hundreds of monsters will
do that for a movie. The plight of Estrada and crew was compelling.
Goofy as it might have seemed at first, their desperate last stand
at the Alamo made for an exciting conclusion.

GOOD: I can’t find his name in the credits, but I got a kick out of
the actor who played Crockett, that surprisingly competent Alamo
tour guide. I pegged him for another red shirt and he turned out to
be so much more than that.

QUESTION FOR DENIZENS OF SAN ANTONIO: Does the Alamo in this movie
look anything like the real thing?

GOOD: Somehow the movie makers managed to resist the urge to have
a stray chupacabra flash across the screen before the closing fade-
out. That last “gotcha” can work on occasion, but it’s an overused
ending for a movie.  The film ended just fine without it.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Chupacabra vs. the Alamo entertained me throughout
its two-hour broadcast time.  It wasn’t great art, it didn’t make
me think deep thoughts, it just entertained me.  I’ve seen lots of
great art in my 61 years on this planet, thought lots of deep and
occasionally disturbing thoughts.  I’m good on both counts.  It’s
goofy monster fun I can always use more of it.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another “Rawhide Kid Wednesday.” Saddle
up, amigos.  Let’s ride!

© 2013 Tony Isabella


  1. Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly IS a chupacabra? Is it related to a chimichanga?

  2. Hi Tony! I'm also a fan of the "so bad it's good" type of movie, and yet I find most of the movies produced for the Syfy Channel (most from Asylum studios, I believe) to be utterly unwatchable. I used to wonder why, until I realized that the big difference between some Corman cheeser from the 60's and the current batch of drek produced by the Syfy Channel is that the producers of the latter have an undercurrent of absolute cynicism about their own movie. Corman's movies, for all their undisputed cheese, did have directors that attempted to add some spark to them and elevate them (if only a little) above their low budget origins. The Syfy movies, to me at least, convey the idea that they are produced entirely by a group of people, actors included, who regard their own movie as the piece of crap that it is, and they are producing it in the same way that a factory produces a widget; make it fast, make it as cheap as possible, and the quality doesn't matter because we are producing this for drones who will devour anything we make. That's the other part of the cynical attitude that becomes apparent to me; the producers who make these movies feel that they can trowel anything onto our plates because hey, we're science fiction fans, which by default means we are so non-discriminating that we will watch anything as long as it has a sci-fi theme. With the advent of affordable CGI that now makes special effects possible for low budget movies that would have been unheard of 15 years ago, I can imagine the endless possibilities for science fiction movies to be made, and am endlessly disappointed that the only ones that anyone can come up with are MegaGerbil Vs UltraSchnauzer, starring David Hasselhoff.

  3. Bob...

    From Wikipedia...

    The Chupacabra or Chupacabras (Spanish pronunciation: [tʃupaˈkaβɾa], from chupar "to suck" and cabra "goat", literally "goat sucker") is a legendary cryptid rumored to inhabit parts of the Americas. It is associated more recently with sightings of an allegedly unknown animal in Puerto Rico (where these sightings were first reported), Mexico, and the United States, especially in the latter's Latin American communities. The name comes from the animal's reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats.

  4. Goat sucker just sounds wrong.

    While on cheap movies (sorry not bad, just good) have you seen Attack the Block?