Chupa (2023) poster

Chupa (2023)


USA. 2023.


Director – Jonas Cuaron, Screenplay – Joe Barnathan, Sean Kennedy Moore & Marcus Rinehart, Story – Joe Barnathan, Brendan Bellomo, Sean Kennedy Moore & Marcus Rinehart, Producers – Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus & Mark Radcliffe, Photography – Nico Aguilar, Music – Carlos Rafael Rivera, Visual Effects Supervisor – Mitch Drain, Visual Effects – MPC (Supervisor – Matt Glover), Special Effects Supervisor – Mark Hawker, Production Design – Peter Wenham. Production Company – 26th Street Pictures.


Evan Whitten (Alex), Demian Bechir (Chava), Ashley Ciarra (Luna), Nickolas Verdugo (Memo), Christian Slater (Richard Quinn), Adriana Paz (Julia), Alex Knight (Jumpsuit), Julio Cesar Cedillo (Dr Juan Carlos Ortega)


Alex is an American kid of Mexican parents attending school in Kansas. He is sent for a holiday with his grandfather Chava in San Javier, Mexico, although has little interest in his heritage or learning Spanish. At Chava’s ranch, he is joined by his cousins Luna and Memo. There Alex makes the discovery that Chava has found a baby chupacabra that has been separated from its family. Alex connects with the creature and introduces it to the other children who name it Chupa. At the same time, Richard Quinn, a cryptozoologist from the American government, is fanatically determined to capture a chupacabra. Quinn follows the trail of the Chupa to the farm and wants to take it. Alex and his cousins, along with Chava who is suffering the onset of dementia, determine to stop him and return Chupa to its parents.

The Chupacabra is a cryptid from urban legend. During the 1990s, the Chupacabra legend gained fame throughout Latin American regions and spread to the US. Chupacabra is the Spanish term for ‘goat sucker’ after the creature’s reported habit of drinking the blood of livestock, in particular goats. There have been several films made about the Chupacabra with Guns of El Chupacabra (1997), Legend of the Chupacabra (2000), Bloodthirst: Legend of the Chupacabras (2003), Chupacabra (2003), El Matadero (2004), Chupacabra Terror (2005), Mexican Werewolf in Texas (2005), Night of the Chupacabra (2005), Goatsucker (2009), Chupacabra vs The Alamo (2013), even an episode of the anthology The Alien Agenda: Under the Skin (1997), as well as El Mundo Gira (1997), an episode of tv’s The X Files (1993-2002, 2016-8).

Jonas Cuaron is the son of celebrated Mexican director Alfonso Curaon. Jonas co-wrote his father’s hit Gravity (2013) and was then give the directorial reins of Desierto (2015), a thriller about Mexican illegals being hunted through the desert. Chupa was Jonas’s second directorial outing. Despite the film’s strong Mexican focus and a Mexican director, Chupa is actually an American production from 26th Street Pictures, the first film of a company headed by director Chris Columbus, while the script is written by three Caucasian writers.

Chupa is essentially E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) with a baby chupacabra. There are the same plot elements with the one lone kid befriending an abandoned creature, the discovery by the other kids, the sinister government agent who only wants to capture the creature and the kid’s efforts to get the creature back home. The chupbacabra here even helps the kid fly during the climactic scenes.

Evan Whitten and baby chupacabra in Chupa (2023)
Alex (Evan Whitten) and baby chupacabra

The film has some excellent effects when it comes to creating the chupacabra and the film comes to life whenever Chupa is around. It is anthropomorphic and adorable. The most charming scenes are the ones where it starts singing to accompany Evan Whitten. The only complaint might be that the filmmakers have essentially anthropomorphised the chupacabra. If you look at the supposed eyewitness descriptions of chupacabra, it is reptilian with humanoid gait or else like a hyena with a band of quills down its back, whereas here it has been made cute and furry like a glorified dog with the addition of wings, something that never appears in any of the descriptions.

The cuteness of the creature effects are undercut by the fact that the film deals in broad and overly familiar clichés and plot tropes – what we have is little more than a cute dog film. There is nothing in the plot here that we have no seen before and the familiarity with everything that happens causes the film to tire well before it ends – the faux dramatics with the cougar and Evan Whitten having to venture out onto a rusted pipe across a ravine as it starts to collapse feel very contrived.

The kids are quite capable, while Demian Bechir rises to the occasion, despite the supreme embarrassment of having to go through the latter half of the show decked out in a lucha libre costume.

Trailer here

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