Cryptozoologist Dr. Pena (Giancarlo Esposito) finally captures his long-sought-after chupacabra specimen on a Caribbean island. He has plans to transport it back to civilization, and tries to smuggle it as cargo on a luxury cruise ship with disastrous results.
While there's little ingenuity to the plot--just by hearing the premise and seeing a cast list, most genre fans could fill in the blanks, Chupacabra: Dark Seas is a fairly enjoyable film that obviously does not take itself too seriously and has little pretension to being a masterpiece. While it's nowhere near as funny as it maybe should be given that kind of self-awareness (think Lake Placid (1999) or any number of Troma films), it still earned a 7 out of 10 from me.
7 out of 10s, in my way of looking at scores, are equivalent to the grade of "C", or in other words, they're just average. Basically, they're doing as many things wrong as they're doing right. Let's look at the flaws first: The strangest flaw, especially given the Sci-Fi Channel's other recent original films (like the very good Larva (2005)) is that director John Shepphird never manages to rise above a "made for television" feel. Add that the film is set on a cruise ship, and it's suddenly just a monster on "The Love Boat" (1977).
While the dialogue doesn't take itself very seriously, at times it is a bit too hokey for its own good. Also, in that context, most of the clichés (and there are a lot of them) would be better spoofed than played seriously, as they are.
Like far too many post-Predator films, the Chupacabra has fluorescent green blood.
There is a bit of a Starship Troopers-angle, but again it's not taken far enough. It would have been better as a spoof.
Captain Randolpp (John Rhys-Davies, in an incredible casting coup) has an incongruous daughter--a kind of "Bimbo Buffy" who is too ridiculous in context to take seriously, but not quite ridiculous enough to be really funny. She is a pleasure to look at, of course, and that was probably the point.
Speaking of ridiculous, the plot is occasionally so. For example, a "Starship Trooper" throws a grenade in a small room full of explosive materials, and right at people he is trying to save. Or, a guy at the Navy station is able to spot three survivors from the ship in his binoculars, even though it was stated that the ship was 10 miles out to sea from the station.
There are some funny low-budget moves, such as milking the fire suit for all it's worth. It's one those things where you can hear them saying, "We paid for the suit and this stuntman; we're damn well going to show every frame of footage".
However, the film did just as many things right: Even though the plot is predictable, full of clichés and so on, it usually works. There aren't too many illogical moves, and it is entertaining if not suspenseful.
Surprisingly, there were a lot of accuracies about cruise ships. I worked on cruise ships as a musician for a few years a while ago, and Chupacabra: Dark Seas captures the feel of a real ship enough that it uncovered some long-buried memories for me. There were also many subtle, spot-on jokes about cruise ship culture.
I was actually impressed with the creature. I liked the costume a lot. Although it's becoming a bit clichéd and doesn't exactly make sense in this context, I also thought the jerky cgi-movement was cool.
There was a nice amount of well-done gore, especially considering that this is a film made for the Sci-Fi Channel, and one fantastic body-cut-in-half scene.
I thought the ship effects were done well (it seemed to be a combination of cgi and miniatures). I loved a couple of the cgi sky effects, and occasionally, we were treated to great cinematography.
The performances were better than they needed to be for a film of this caliber. Some had just the right balance of campiness and seriousness. It's just too bad that I can't say that about the film overall.
The bottom line: Chupacabra: Dark Seas is definitely worth watching as long as you lower your expectations and just expect to have fun with a predictable, slightly tongue-in-cheek, goofy creature flick.