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Syfy's 'Chupacabra vs. the Alamo' promises to be memorable

Chupacabra vs. the Alamo

8 p.m. Saturday


Posted 8:32am on Friday, Mar. 22, 2013

Sometimes the title says it all.

Such is the case with Chupacabra vs. the Alamo, a Syfy channel movie original that premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Those four words in the title -- promising an unlikely battle royal between a pack of Mexican goat-sucking vampires and defenders of the Shrine of Texas Liberty -- tell almost everything you need to know.

It's immediately obvious that Chupacabra vs. the Alamo is going to be a B-caliber creature feature, with cheesy special effects, a goofy plot and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.

Beyond that, says executive producer Jeffrey Schenck, "It's one of my proudest moments as a filmmaker to say that our movie stars Erik Estrada -- and we've got him on a motorcycle!"

Yes, that's a fun visual, especially for viewers who fondly remember Estrada from his early days of TV stardom as a hunky motorcycle cop on CHiPs.

But to borrow a phrase from the movie Jerry Maguire, "You had me at Chupacabra vs. the Alamo."

Here's the premise in a cracked nutshell: "The movie opens with drug runners who have built tunnels under the border," Schenck says. "That's something that comes right out of a real news story. Our idea was, 'Let's build a creature movie around this.'

"So we've got chupacabras using those tunnels to come across the border, right into Texas. After that, the plot pretty much wrote itself. Because where will our hero [Estrada, as a rogue DEA agent] and his allies make their last stand? Well, anybody from Texas knows the last stand happened at the Alamo.

"That's how the chocolate and the peanut butter -- the chupacabras and the Alamo -- got mixed together."

It's an inspired stroke of lunatic filmmaking.

It's worth noting, though, that one group of prominent Texans wishes Schenck hadn't remembered the Alamo.

Karen Thompson, president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, contemporary champions of Alamo lore, expressed displeasure to San Antonio Express-News columnist Jeanne Jakle.

"We work very hard to be sure the history of the Alamo and the fact that it's a shrine to 189 men who died there to fight for liberty is not something you make fun of or use in some sort of horror, comedy, sci-fi or any sort of movie other than a historical documentary," Thompson said.

In fairness to Schenck and Syfy, the movie is so blissfully silly, it's hard to be truly offended.

Chupacabra vs. the Alamo is the latest in a long series of cheapie horror and sci-fi pictures airing on Syfy Saturday.

Some previous masterpieces include Jersey Shore Shark Attack (another warped idea from Schenck), Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (memorable for the stunt casting and the inevitable catfight between 1980s pop stars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany) and Bigfoot (which also featured rivalry stunt casting, with Barry Williams of Brady Bunch fame and Danny Bonaduce of The Partridge Family).

Simply put, these movies are fun because they're like throwbacks to drive-in movies of another era, pictures that were cheap, cheesy and schlocky, but also fun, creepy and sometimes genuinely scary.

The only difference, Schenck says, is that Chupacabra vs. the Alamo cost $2 million to make.

"These movies are not as cheap as you think," he says. "We have more than 300 CGI shots. If we were really trying to make a cheapie in the classic sense, we wouldn't go to all that trouble.

"Whenever I finish a script for one of these movies, literally every line producer looks at me and says, 'This is a $30 million feature that you want to squeeze into a $2 million budget.'"

The movie was shot in British Columbia, with the historic trading post Fort Langley serving as a stand-in for the Alamo interior sequences.

The filmmakers sent a second unit to San Antonio for exterior shots. Had they spent more time in Texas, they might not have gotten so many geography issues so wrong.

But that somehow works in the context of this being a deliberately dumb movie.

As for the chupacabras, they more or less have the size and look of savage Great Danes.

"When you get into chupacabra mythology, you're talking about skinny, doglike animals," Schenck says. "So we wanted to stay authentic and not make it an oversized sci-fi creature.

"As a matter of fact, I've learned that chupacabra mythology is very prevalent in Latino culture. When I asked one of our lead actresses what she thought of the chupacabra, she looked at me, deadpan, and said, 'Oh, they're real. No doubt about it.'

"That's when you know you have a great creature, when it's one that people actually believe in."

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