Genre: Found Footage/Horror
Directed by: Matt McWilliams
Run time: 90 minutes
The Lowdown: If you’re familiar with the legend of the dreaded chupacabra, which has spawned dozens of horror movies, this new found-footage approach to the vicious goat-sucking creature offers at least one new twist: A supernatural, sexual tether that prompts one misguided adventure-seeking woman to steal away frequently to masturbate every time the beast’s blood-curdling screams ripple through the forest.
Yep, you read that right.
If there was new ground to be tilled in this urban legend subgenre, director Matt McWilliams goes all-in with the T and the A, including a sexually-charged séance where the woman, B-movie scream queen Sarah Nicklin, channels the spirit of the chupacabra while thrashing on the ground.
Chupacabra Territory is downright ridiculous, but it could have been a true midnight movie sensation if it had avoided the typical pitfalls of the found footage genre, namely keeping its titular creature in the shadows for most of the brief run time and relying on too many scenes of scared people running blindly in the dark.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Sarah Nicklin is possessed hot.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – The chupacabra, man!
Buy/Rent – Neither.
The Bye Bye Man (Universal, 96 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): It has been a long time – 22 years, to be exact – since director Stacy Title unleashed a whip-smart and pitch-black satire on the masses, titled The Last Supper.
Since then, she directed two other features, the most recent 2006’s Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror, but we won’t hold that against her. Thankfully, the past two decades have not dulled her edge for subversive fare, and The Bye Bye Man, based on the book, The Bridge to Body Island, and adapted by screenwriter Jonathan Penner, is a way-above-average, and completely unexpected, delight. It’s also PG-13, which is typically a death knell for horror, but that teen-friendly rating doesn’t impede its step one bit in this instance.
The Bye Bye Man is more than just a rushed excuse to put teen-aged butts in movie seats. It’s smart, unnerving and genuinely scary in places – so much so that at one point, BVB actually paused the movie to do a thorough check of the entire house, turning on every possible light to mitigate any dark shadow areas where the titular fiend might be hiding. No, I’m not kidding, and I’m not ashamed to admit this. Good horror should evoke this kind of visceral reaction.
What elevates The Bye Bye Man is that it’s not based on a real urban legend, a la The Slender Man, and it has no use for happy movie endings where the besieged teens trying to escape the evil incarnate actually figure out a neat and tidy solution just before the end credits roll.
This is blistering, go-for-broke psychological horror firing on all cylinders. Even the mantra that the main characters whisper and shout, ‘Don’t think it. Don’t say it,’ in reference to invoking the Bye Bye Man, works deliriously well. It gets in your head and burrows.
If you passed on this one in theaters due to poor reviews, don’t let that keep you from discovering it now. This is excellent date night on the couch with the lights down low entertainment.
House: Two Stories (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group, 93 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): The 1980s, as a decade, was a rollicking heyday for horror, both straight-up frightfests and the trickier tightrope of horror-comedy. Movies like Fright Night, Vamp, Night of the Creeps and more did a great job tickling our funny bone while also making us jump in fear.
For me, House was a standout example of the best that decade had to offer. Sure, I may have been just 15 when it was released in 1985, but I loved House – so much so that I kept the theatrical one-sheet on my wall until I graduated for college and I still have it rolled up in a tube to this day.
What I didn’t get during those early viewings was how carefully constructed director Steve Miner’s film really was. Sure, it’s a haunted house flick starring The Greatest American Hero, aka William Katt, with the hulking Bull from Night Court to provide jolts of menace, but House also was a serious meditation on the horrors of war, Vietnam, specifically, and the unbridled PTSD that many veterans returned home with as a result.
Kudos to Arrow Video for dusting off both the original and the subpar sequel and giving this mid-80s gem a proper two-disc high-def release.
Teenage Ghost Punk (Midnight Releasing, 99 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Writer-director Mike Cramer clearly loves old-school 1980s horror, and his Teenage Ghost Punk has all the ingredients to spin a compelling ghost-love-story, but somewhere from idea to execution the film just falls flat.
I think the main culprit is likely the long, and we mean loooooong, setup to actually introducing the musical apparition.
Horror fans are typically a forgiving bunch, and as a community, many fans will allow a low-budget indie like this to find its sea legs, but pushing past the half hour mark without firmly establishing a key character – the freaking ghost (!) in the title – is asking a bit much.
Daughters of the Dust
Dead or Alive Trilogy
Ludwig: Limited edition