Netflix’s “Chupa”: Bloodthirsty Mythical Beast Gets the Lovely Spielberg Treatment

Creature features have a long, lucrative history in cinema that usually strays on the bloodier side of things. But Netflix Chupa takes a vampiric mythical beast and makes it the cutest little chirping koala cat griffin there is, with a dash of Spielberg on top.

Director Jonás Cuarón’s family-friendly fantasy focuses on the terrifying Latin American legend of the chupacabra – the literal translation of the Spanish word chupacabra is “goat sucker”.(Opens in a new tab) But instead of a horror film in which many a goat soul is defeated, Chupa is a sweet thoughtful adventure about family, celebrating heritage, and turning the bird into villains who would pursue magical creatures for money.

what is Chupa around?

discontinued in 1996, Chupa follows Alex (Evan Whitten), a 13-year-old boy from Kansas City who becomes embroiled in a wild adventure while visiting family in Mexico. Alex stumbles across an oddly adorable (and luckily not too bloodthirsty) winged creature hiding in the barn of his Abuelo Chava, a delightfully melodramatic former luchador played by Demián Bichir. Young chupacabra is all alone, scared and separated from his family.

Alex and his cousins ​​Memo (Nickolas Verdugo) and Luna (Ashley Ciarra) must protect Chupa from a devious scientist working for ambiguously useless investors. As Richard Quinn, Christian Slater is moderately evil, with some serious Alan Grant vibes; He’s curious about Chupa as a scientist, but his employers have far more nefarious reasons for snapping the little beast.


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Chupa takes a vampiric mythical beast and makes it lovable.

The real star of the show, of course, is Chupa himself. Cuarón and the visual effects team have created a very cute rendition of the legendary creature that was rumored to have impressed the director as a child. “The chupacabras [were] first seen in Puerto Rico in the early 90’s. After that, the creature was sighted all over Latin America… This creature was believed to feed on the blood of goats,” Cuarón told Netflix’s Tudum(Opens in a new tab).

Instead of a hairless, blood-sucking monster, Chupa is a furry, chirping, cackling, cooing cat-meets-koala-meets-griffin cub that lunges over the joint before letting out a deep, sad howl for its mother.

A feline, koala-like creature looks at the camera.

is that a cat Is it a koala? It’s Chupa!
Photo credit: Netflix

Surprisingly for a creature movie, the film reveals the tiny little chupacabra almost immediately, with the first glimpse of the tiny feathered friend quivering and whimpering under the evil scientists’ flashlights. The film’s opening scenes, in which the chupacabras are being chased by the villains, are reminiscent of monster movie expeditions such as The Mummyor the Sea Whip sequence in shadow and bone Season 2 – a group of clumsy intruders disrupt a wild animal’s lair with intent to dominate or kill it. At the top, Chupa reminds us that humans would inevitably treat magical creatures like absolute crap.

Slater is appropriately PG evil as an antagonist. Chupa keeps it pretty vague as to who exactly these bad guys are — just impatient investors wanting their precious beast caught and delivered. Slater leans into the whole mustache-twirling villain of it all as Quinn, but keeps it clean for younger viewers. “Son of a…” is as cursed as this script.

Chupa delve into the power of family and the embrace of your heritage

One of the core themes that run through Chupa is the disconnect between Alex’s life and identity in America and his family heritage in Mexico. Cuarón realizes early in the film that Alex is bullied at school and in Kansas City he has to be ashamed of his Mexican origins, he suffers racial taunts and harassment over such mundane things as his lunch. Alex takes that frustration home, venting his anger on his mother and resenting the trip to San Javier, declaring, “I don’t care about Mexico, OK? I don’t care about the music food.”

Alex’s departure from his Mexican heritage is steeped in social shame as he laments, “Nobody speaks Spanish in Kansas City.” He reactively throws himself into apparently pan-American interests such as Goosebumps, Beavis and ButtheadMC Donalds, Jurassic Park, Ninja Turtles, Looney Tunes, and video games – only to find his young cousins ​​in Mexico like the same things. Luna chides Alex when he’s surprised she’s obsessed with the Beastie Boys: “What? You think Mexicans only listen to mariachi?”

through Chupa, Alex’s trip to San Javier sees him slowly appreciating and then celebrating his Mexican heritage – including his Abuelo Chava’s fame as a famous lucha libre wrestling legend. When Alex lands, Chava immediately speaks Spanish to him and is disappointed to find that his grandson does not speak Spanish despite his father’s attempts at teaching.

“He tried, I just didn’t get the point,” says Alex.

“What?” replies Chava. “This is your heritage, something to be proud of.”

Three children and a man are standing in the desert of Mexico, the man is wearing a luchador cloak.

Demián Bichir as Chava, Evan Whitten as Alex, Ashley Ciarra as Luna, and Nickolas Verdugo as Memo.
Credit: Tony Rivetti Jr/Netflix

Chupa contains more than a few nods to Spielberg.

Chupa is undeniably steeped in what Mashable’s Caitlin Welsh describes as “amblincore” and Steven Spielberg’s cinematic hallmarks; if you don’t think about it ET the extraterrestrial While you’re watching this, you might want to revisit the director’s 1982 classic. Alex’s connection with Chupa in the barn, learning to sing and howl together, has undeniable parallels with Elliott (Henry Thomas) and ET, and Memo, teaching the baby chupacabra to fly, feels similar to Gertie (Drew Barrymore ) that teaches ET to speak.

Director Cuarón acknowledges Spielberg’s influence chupra, to. “I’ve always been a big fan of ET and believe that such stories are so powerful because they play with the idea of ​​children being misunderstood by adults,” Cuarón told Netflix’s Tudum(Opens in a new tab). “Chupa may be a monster, but he’s the only one who really understands what Alex is going through. The bond between a boy and a creature is so pure, like that of a pet, that it transcends language.”

Three children are sitting in a barn around a small mythical animal.

Ahh, the old hidden creature in the barn/garage.
Photo credit: Netflix

Cuarón directly references the Hollywood director’s work through props: Alex’s room is crammed with action figures and posters by Jurassic Parkand a plush Mogwai gremlins. Moments from Carlos Rafael Rivera’s quirky score sound almost identical to “Across the Stars,” the theme of Anakin and Padme Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones(Opens in a new tab) by John Williams, Spielberg’s longtime favorite composer. And thanks to cinematographer Nico Aguilar, Chupa is filled with both windshield shots and moments showing the cast in recognition, awe or wonder, all of which could be seen as references to “The Spielberg Face”:

As the evil scientist, Slater has several little Spielberg moments: when he’s chasing the Mama Chupacabra and her pup early in the film, in a moment reminiscent of Dr. Alan Grant’s (Sam Neill) Velociraptor monologue stinks, one claw up Jurassic Park(Opens in a new tab). Later, as clients helicopter in to review their investment, throwing Quinn’s papers everywhere, it feels like a direct nod to John Hammond’s (Richard Attenborough) dust-raising entry into the dig site.(Opens in a new tab)

A man dressed in khaki and wearing an adventurer's hat holds a found claw to a torch.

Literally Dr. Alan Grant.
Photo credit: Netflix

One of Spielberg’s signatures are also themes surrounding absent fatherhood and loss (see: ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Hook), and you better believe Chupa tick that off. Alex mourns the loss of his father, fueling his character’s arc through the story to find support from his family.

Is Chupa worth seeing?

Chupa is a very cute fantasy adventure and Spielberg-like creatures feature that touches on deeper themes of grief, heritage and family. While not reinventing the genre, the film keeps it simple and effective, letting its cast make a real connection with a mythical CGI beast. Come for the sweet goat lollipop, stay for the truly heartwarming family moments.

Chupa Premiered on Netflix on April 7th.(Opens in a new tab)

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