Chupa (2023) Movie Review – Excellent special effects elevate ordinary family flick

Excellent special effects elevate ordinary family flick

According to popular legend, a Chupacabra is a monstrous creature that attacks livestock and drinks their blood. Early reports suggested their appearance was like a large reptilian kangaroo with red eyes but there are those who believe a Chupacabra has the appearance of a wolf with no hair. These creatures have been blamed for attacks on goats, sheep, and other domestic animals but despite reported signings, it is doubtful that these creatures actually exist (feel free to breathe a sigh of relief).

A number of horror movies have been made about these (presumably) mythological creatures, most of them low-budget and not very good. The 2014 movie Indigenous is probably the most well-known but if you have an interest in cheaply made B-movies, you may have stumbled upon Mexican Werewolf In Texas, Chupacabra Terror, Rise Of The Chupucabras, and similarly-themed titles that were similar in budget and poor in quality.

The latest movie to centre on a Chupacabra is Chupa, a Netflix Original that, surprisingly, isn’t a horror title. This is actually a kids’ movie that has more in common with ET: The Extra-Terrestrial and the other family-friendly movies Amblin made in the 1980s and 90s than the aforementioned monster flicks, although it does feature one scene involving a victimised goat that may be a little upsetting for pre-school children.

Chupa, which has been directed by Jonás Cuarón (Desierto), is a decent enough movie for kids but adults may be disappointed by the formulaic story that fails to capture the heart as it should. It tells the tale of a teenager named Alex, a young boy who has recently lost his father, who journeys from Kansas to Mexico to stay with his grandfather and cousins over spring break.

Not long after his arrival, Alex has an encounter with a Chupacabra. As this is a kid’s movie, the beast doesn’t look all that frightening. It’s actually rather cute, with its blue-feathered wings and furry dog-like face, although its tendency to nibble on local goats belies its harmless exterior.

Alex names the creature Chupa and they quickly begin to bond but their friendship is threatened by a scientist named Richard Quinn (Christian Slater), who has been tasked with capturing a Chupacabra by a shady organization that we never get to know much about. The lack of detail about Quinn and the people he works for is just one of the problems inherent within the story, but children are unlikely to care about the plot holes in the script as they will be too entranced by the excellent CGI work that brings the lovable (but blood-thirsty) Chupa to life.

The special effects are what lift this movie out of the ordinary. Chupacabras might be mythological but you’ll have no trouble believing in them when you get a sight of the Chupacabra cub that Alex discovers. The creature’s adult relatives, which are larger in scale and a lot less cuddly, also look believable, even though they’re more dragon-like than the beasts from mythology.

It’s the effects work rather than the story that will keep adults watching. You see, while the movie has all the ingredients of an Amblin movie – an intrepid youngster, a mystical creature, shady government officials – it fails to capture the magic of the titles it has been inspired by.

This is mainly because the movie doesn’t spend a lot of time developing the friendship between Alex and Chupa so the connection they make doesn’t ring true. As a consequence of this, it’s difficult to become emotionally engaged in their relationship, so when they do become separated, it’s difficult to care.

Spielberg’s ET, which this movie has a lot in common with, made audiences cry bucket-loads because the friendship between Elliot and ET felt real. People cried when the diminutive alien went home because they could empathise with the kid and share his sense of loss. The same is unlikely to apply to anybody watching Chupa, even though the fatherless Alex shares the loneliness of Elliot, as his bond with the cuddly critter doesn’t feel earned.

Despite the flaws in the story, the movie is still likeable, and this is largely thanks to the talented cast. Evan Whitten, who plays Alex, manages to give the movie a little bit of heart with his warm and tender performance, and Nickolas Verdugo, who stars as Alex’s young cousin Memo, gives a comical performance as the enthusiastic little boy who dreams of becoming a famous luchador like his grandfather. Christian Slater, as the ruthless researcher pursuing Chupa, is as dependable as always, but he isn’t able to do a lot with a character that falls prey to all the usual ‘evil scientist’ tropes that we are familiar with.

Chupa is a passable time-killer but nothing more. It had the potential to be a magical movie for children and a blast of nostalgia for adults but it fails on both counts. Kids will still fall in love with the Chupacabra youngling because of the excellent effects work and they might learn a few important life lessons because of the messages of hope and love that the movie tries to convey. But as Chupa fails to pull on the heartstrings and tell a convincing story, this is hardly likely to be a movie that will be as fondly remembered as the Amblin movies that it so desperately tries to resemble.


Read More: Chupa Ending Explained

Feel free to check out more of our movie reviews here!

  • Verdict - 6.5/10

Leave a comment