What is Chupa? What the Netflix Movie Gets Right About the Chupacabra Myth

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It’s like a Mexican E.T. featuring a mythical dog-thing with wings. Charming kids’ movie Chupa, directed by Gravity writer Jonás Cuarón, is the story of a young boy called Alejandro (Evan Whitten) whose father has died, who travels to Mexico to stay with his grandfather (Demián Bichir) and cousins and befriends a strange creature.

This creature is a baby chupacabra who’s been separated from its parents and has taken refuge in Alex’s grandfather’s barn. But all is not well – Christian Slater’s government funded scientist has been tracking the chupacabras, believing they have healing qualities that he’d be able to harness. 

Will Alex be able to help reunite little Chupa with his family before the ruthless scientist gets his hands on him? And might he learn some lessons about family on the way? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

Chupacabras are folkloric creatures originating in the Americas. So how close does the film stick to the lore?

What’s a chupacabra (or chupacabras)?

From the Spanish, the word means “goat sucker” because they are thought to suck goats’ blood (and other livestock) in a vampiric fashion. Chupacabras are a relatively recent bit of folklore, with reports by farmers in Puerto Rico of livestock being killed by a vampiric creature originating in the 1970s, with the first “official” case attributed to the chupacabra occurring in 1995. Chupa is set in 1996 which fits with the idea that this could be the time of peak interest from the US government in the creatures.

In the movie the creatures are referred to as ‘chupacabras’ – that was the original name (supposedly coined by Puerto Rican comedian Silverio Pérez) – which later became regularized to chupacabra.

Characteristics

Chupacabra are sometimes described as looking dog-like with red eyes and fangs (and in fact some suggest that chupacabras, especially the ones sighted in are actually mangy coyotes). Other descriptions give them scaly skin, an alien-like look and a long tail with spikes on it, and suggest they are the size of a small bear. The book Tracking The Chupacabra by Benjamin Radford, suggests the eyewitness who described the chupacabra after livestock were killed in Puerto Rico was massively influenced by the film Species, with her description making the main character, Sil. Radford reckoned this totally skewed serious investigations into its existence as a real species.

All of which ultimately gives a lot of leeway for the on screen depiction. Chupa is pretty dog-like (and a little bit cat-like) and has the fangs and tail. But he is way way cuter than the mythical versions. He’s super fluffy and he notably also has wings and can fly which is not a trait associated with chupacabra.

Chupa is a children’s fantasy movie and not the story of a vicious otherworldly predator, so Chupa is an absolute cuddle who would clearly make a wonderful pet. He’s friendly and once they have made friends he’s loyal to Alex. He also eats some sausage that Alex brings him, suggesting it’s not all about goat’s blood for the species. These chupacabras appear to be pack animals (which would fit if they are dog-like), and have a distinctive call which they use to identify each other. Fully grown chupacabras (in the film) are fairly massive, suggesting maintaining the mystery of their existence would be pretty tricky.

But then again spaceships and sasquatches are pretty huge too, so you never know…

Chupacabra in The Imperfects
The Imperfects. The Chupacabra in episode 103 of The Imperfects. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022

If you want to compare Chupa to another Netflix chupacabra check out The Imperfects, where the character Juan Ruiz has the power to shapeshift into a chupacabra. His is a bit more of a traditional predator, a demon dog-like thing with glowing eyes, fangs, sharp claws and spikes down his spine.

Chupa and The Imperfects are both out now on Netflix.

The post What is Chupa? What the Netflix Movie Gets Right About the Chupacabra Myth appeared first on Den of Geek.

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