LAIR OF THE BEAST (2016)
aka CHUPACABRA TERRITORY
Written and Directed by Matt McWilliams
Four friends led by zoologist student Amber head into the remote Pinewood forest to search for the chupacabra, a mythical creature said to roam the area and possibly responsible for the deaths of a group of missing campers years previously. Keen to be proven right, they set up camp and each arm themselves with a GoPro camera to hopefully capture the creature on film. However, when the killing starts, they’ll wish they never went looking at all.
Whether it’s bigfoot or the chupacabra, these found footage cum creature movies have been done to death in recent years, attempting to merge the frightening woodland horror with deadly, elusive beasties. LAIR OF THE BEAST aka CHUPACABRA TERRITORY is no exception. It starts as you would expect a movie like this would but instead of a cautious group of young investigators, we’ve got an overly-excited young woman leading the team who’s the complete opposite of concerned or fearful when shown a carcass of a mutilated deer – a suspected victim of a chupacabra. Most people, I would imagine, would be wary of venturing into the woodland unarmed in case of encountering the beast but not Amber. She’s ready, eager and willing and reckons her book of rituals, bottle of salt and incense sticks will protect them from harm, not to mention a bit of masturbation will enhance the experience and connection between her and the chupacabra. Yes, you read that last bit correctly and no, I can’t say I understand it either.
Between Amber and not-so-secret admirer Joe arguing with friend Morgan, who’s come along for the ride despite his disinterest in the whole chupacabra thing, there’s not really much of a story to LAIR OF THE BEAST. The tension and build up is pretty non-existant thanks to the shrieks of over-enthusiasm from Amber who’s sexual trance-like state takes away from the horror angle of the film. Between complaining, excitement and wandering from campsite to campsite, the group have very little to offer. Joe’s tongue dragging along the floor for Amber is quite pathetic to watch whilst Amber herself is quite the annoying character, so much so I found myself siding with stress-head Morgan and quiet cameraman Dave who appear to be the only ones who have common sense. The four friends aren’t the only human characters of the film. They encounter others during their hike and, though quite brief, their scenes are far more interesting, chilling and entertaining to watch than the entire screentime given to Amber and co.
For horror fans wanting their slice of the creature action, the chupacabra itself is a pretty cool beasty though is massively underused in the film. A couple of scenes try to add tension to the movie by showing it stalk the group but the useless, goofy filler inbetween provided by the main characters completely ruins the suspense and terror that the creature brings. Only one scene involving Dave and Morgan towards the end really sells the horror premise and the fact that this is a creature to fear and not joke about.
By trying to appeal to teens with its childish humour, LAIR OF THE BEAST loses sight of what it’s trying to achieve. Whilst there’s elements here that truly do work and emulate the Blair Witch style terror, the unfortunate, self-centred egos of the characters involved completely undo these moments of brilliance. Because of this, horror fans looking for a serious woodland creature horror will be disappointed as the mish-mash of comedy filler and found footage horror results in more mess than a mutilated chupacabra victim.