Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Legend of Chupacabras – review

Director: Alberto Rodriguez

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

On a plus side the Chupacabras in this animated film are definitely vampiric in nature, so no need for a ‘Vamp or Not?’ The down side, well this is apparently a very popular franchise in Mexico but I found the franchise aspects a tad confusing (as I’ll explain). Nor do I think an explanation for the characters are missing because they are in an earlier film.

Set in Mexico sometime during the War of Independence (so the early part of the 19th century) and follows a character called Leo San Juan but it is not these aspects that confuse – let me explain.

Leo's nightmare
Leo is in a cart when he is woken by the driver who says he has been waiting for Leo and that Leo is dreaming. He turns into something demonic and Leo then actually wakes. He is in a cart with a group of men, who turn out to be survivors of an insurgent battalion. There is a checkpoint ahead so one of the men slips away and Leo is asked to cooperate with the insurgents. He agrees.

prisoners
When a guard asks where they are going Leo answers honestly – he is going to Puebla to visit his grandmother – the insurgents claim to be Mariachi also travelling to the town and the cart is passed through. However one of the guard spots the figure of their companion in the distance and they draw weapons, become surrounded, Leo is taken hostage and they surrender to the royal army. At the army camp they are sat tied, with a Spaniard placed with them. The thought is Leo will be released as he is a child but the General decides he will be executed too. They are to be held in an abandoned monastery to await the morning and the firing squad.

Alebrije and Evaristo
It is here things become strange and confused. We suddenly move to two dragons, Alebrije and Evaristo. Evaristo is having his back painted by two animated sugar skulls in order that he might summon his power and set Alebrije up on a date with his cousin – who turns out to be a human girl – and talks about being able to drive. If this wasn’t confusing enough we later see a ghost girl called Teodora who has a cell phone and uses facebook. The incongruities of this are never explained, the character backgrounds and relationship with Leo are not explained for a new viewer. I personally wondered if there was a VR aspect and these were avatars but searching online reveals Teodora is a ghost. Later we see that Leo knows them, works with them but others cannot necessarily see them.

chupacabra
So, in the monastery Leo spots Nando, his older brother, wearing a royal army uniform. Nando goes to him just as all Hell breaks loose as a chupacabra starts decimating guards and attacking the prisoners. The guards who are attacked are found desiccated – their blood and life drained entirely. The chupacabras themselves are bat creatures with red eyes and the primary one we see is fairly indestructible, it seems. The Spaniard claims they previously attacked and destroyed his village. We discover that they can return stolen life. Meanwhile, whilst trying to get information on the chupacabras, Teodora and the dragons end up in occult peril elsewhere.

Leo and Teodora
The actual animation for this is good, the dubbed voice acting worked well enough and the core story was interesting with layers being added to the chupacabras that made them victims as well as hunters. It was the side aspects that confused, however shut them out and go with it and the film can be enjoyable. I, unfortunately, stewed over the incongruities. I discovered, online afterwards, that Teodora has two backstories one being a girl killed in the 18th century and a ghost and, in the spin off series, being a girl hit by a truck and given spirit form. That’s great as far as it goes but if the former then why the cell phone, if the latter why has she gone back in time? It is also not brilliant storytelling in film, as the magical creatures’ connection with Leo is never touched on.

Balancing out the confusion within the fast cut to seemingly unrelated characters and their incongruities with the fact that this, at heart, is a fun animated adventure I’m going for a middle ground of 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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