Chupacabra vs. the Alamo
The key to selling a trashy horror movie is in part its title. The Gerund-ing or Something vs. Something Else are always promising titles. Having lived in San Antonio for eleven or so years, I had to jump at the opportunity when I heard the Syfy Channel was airing a movie called Chupacabra vs. the Alamo. I couldn’t resist the appeal of both the familiar and the patently ridiculous.
Chupacabra vs. the Alamo starts with a drug cartel near the border to Mexico, which in this movie is southeast of San Antonio, because there is no Gulf of Mexico. The main character, Carlos, rides his motorcycle from San Antonio to crime scene, traversing about a hundred in miles in a couple of minutes. He meets his new partner Tracy at the crime scene and immediately starts acting like an asshole toward her by treating her like a wet-behind-the-ears intern. While investigating the crime scene, Tracy recognizes that the slaughtered gang members look like they’ve been torn apart by animals instead of a rival gang. A chupacabra attacks Tracy as she’s performing the investigation, and Carlos saves her with a gunshot and a smartass remark.
Because Chupacabra vs. the Alamo abounds with wonderful people, we soon learn that Carlos’s son, Tommy, is a member of a gang that has connections to a Mexican drug cartel; he hints that the chupacabras are responsible for the killings, but he doesn’t learn the truth about that until the next scene. Tracy and Carlos go to meet her creepy, douchebag ex-boyfriend, who is dissecting the chupacabra they killed. Unlike Carlos, who hasn’t read the title of the movie, we’re completely unsurpised when it turns out, zomg, that the hideous dog-creatures are in fact chupacabras; yes, I went there…I typed zomg.
Anyhow, this wouldn’t be a horror movie without dead teenagers, so the film cuts to a Cinco de Mayo party that Carlos’s daughter Sienna is attending; every time I heard her name, I added the word burnt before it. Of course, Sienna’s friend has to go and make out with her boyfriend, alerting every chupacabra in a hundred mile radius that underage sex is imminent and needs to be punished with swift and merciless death. Especially merciless, given that the chupacabras bite the boyfriend’s dick off and toss another young man high enough to score a field goal. Incidentally, this is the third film that I’ve seen that involves penile mastication, following Snakes on a Plane and Teeth. Sienna and her friend escape to the nearby high school and are rescued by Carlos from the relentless chupacabras. He figures they would be safer with Sienna’s aunt, so he drops them off at her house. However, as you well know, chupacabras are vindictive creatures and they track the two teens down. Sienna manages to protect herself with an electric carving knife long enough for her father to show up once again and save her, but Sienna’s friend doesn’t make it.
Later that day, Carlos and Tommy meet while visiting Sienna in the hospital. Despite his misgivings, Tommy agrees to team up with Carlos to protect San Antonio from the vicious chupacabras, if only for the sake of his sister. Tommy and his gangbangers trade awkward Spanish insults with Carlos – though surprisingly refrain from calling each other cholo – before joining up with him and with the police to track down the chupacabras. Because they’re thugs, they have fully automatic weapons, which are hidden discreetly in toolboxes where anyone could see them. We also learn that Carlos once prevented Tommy from making a deal with the police to get out of jail, hoping that time in prison would set him straight. He further states that he doesn’t expect Tommy to forgive him and he doesn’t need to be forgiven, because Carlos is a model father and a lovable main character.
The group moves in on a group of chupacabras in a factory and manage to gun down quite a few, but are forced to retreat when most of the policemen and thugs are torn apart or dragged into the shadows to be eaten. They retreat to the Alamo and seal off the exits, hoping to fight off the chupacabras from their fortified positions. Just like the Battle of the Alamo, this ends with chupacabras breaking through the defenses, forcing the group to shoot them with rifles dating back to the 1800s and to run from place to place. Thankfully, Tommy happens to have some plastic explosives – because he’s involved with Mexican drug cartels I guess? – and the group decides that the best way to get rid of all of the chupacabras is to lure them into the fort and blow up the Alamo. They all escape through a tunnel under the Alamo in time to watch the whole place go up like CGI fireworks. All of the chupacabras are dead and everyone is relieved, even though the Alamo is still billowing smoke the next day, showing that San Antonio is now most likely engulfed in flames. Yay!
As a former San Antonian, I can attest that many of the location shots are accurate and I was certainly pleased to see my town. Naturally, that’s about all the resemblance there is between this movie and San Antonio. I was amused that in the first few seconds of the film, they established that the border is southeast of the city, which it isn’t, and made it look like Carlos took a leisurely drive to get to the border, instead of the hundred mile drive it should have taken. Better yet, it’s clear that the actors really aren’t in San Antonio, at least not all of the time. Several shots are conspicuous photographic backgrounds over which the characters traverse, making it look like they’re on location; this is especially egregious when there are shots of Carlos riding a motorcycle, but he’s clearly sitting on a stationary motorcycle while a green-screen background moves past him. Furthermore, the characters are clearly not at the Alamo when they’re running around that fort, even when it’s not the obvious CGI/green screen shots. The Alamo doesn’t have palisade walls or wooden gates. All that’s left of the original structure are stone walls and several buildings, most notably the iconic chapel. I’d be inclined to forgive that kind of inaccuracy if it didn’t take a few minutes of research on the internet and one look on Google maps from the street level to know the Alamo doesn’t look like it does in the movie.
It’s worth noting that Spanish is extremely common in San Antonio and Spanish words and phrases will be casually thrown into everyday conversation. What was amusing was how awkwardly everyone used the words. I couldn’t stop laughing at the beginning of the film when Carlos is talking to his daughter and he says, “You can go live with your brother Tommy and life will be one big fiesta!” It just struck me as absurd, like dialogue someone would write for hispanic San Antonians without knowing how they’d actually speak. On the other hand, all the Spanish words and phrases shoehorned into this movie definitely add color and are amply repaid by one of the greatest one-liners I’ve ever heard. While fighting off a chupacabra, Carlos says, “Chupa this!” and blows off its head with a shotgun. For those of you not in the know, in Spanish chupacabra means “goat-sucker” – chupa means “sucks” and cabra means goats – hence he was saying, “Suck this!”
So what do I as a San Antonian think about a film with a terribly unlikable main character, awkward Spanish thrown into make it sound more Tejano, ludicrous misunderstanding of the location and geography, all ending with the explosion of our beloved landmark and symbol of our city? I think it’s awesome of course! How many times do you get to see your hometown invaded by vicious chupacabras? How many times do you get to see someone triumphantly cry, “Remember the Alamo!” then blow it up a few minutes later to kill the aforementioned chupacabras? Chupacabra vs. the Alamo reaches the upper echelons of absurdity and for that I salute it. I couldn’t be prouder of my erstwhile home knowing that it was the stage for the two most important battles in Texas history: the battle against the Mexico for independence and the battle against the cupacabras for the safety of our goats.