Erik Estrada is back on the bike in Syfy’s “Chupacabra vs The Alamo”

With a ridiculous title that sounds like it could have come straight from one of those 1960s Mexican wrestler-superhero-horror movies (like Samson vs. The Vampire Women, or Santo and Blue Demon vs. The Monsters), Syfy’s latest original movie, Chupacabra vs The Alamo, indeed offers a similar cheesy but fun Mexican/Southwestern pop-culture/horror flair, beyond its moniker.

Again borrowing from the public domain/urban legend bestiary, Syfy this time uses as its title monster the chupacabra — a legendary beast that has been reported throughout Latin America and the American Southwest, and that has been said to have attacked and sucked the blood from goats and other livestock (the Spanish name “chupacabra” roughly translates to “goat sucker”).

In Chupacabra vs The Alamo, the blood-sucking beasts are using secret tunnels devised by drug-smugglers to work their way from Mexico into the United States to attack a fresh crop of victims beyond livestock — humans. Oh, and it turns out that they are rabid, on top of it. The story, while filmed in Canada, takes place in and around San Antonio, where DEA agent Carlos (’70s icon Erik Estrada) gradually wises up to the threat from the creatures, with the help of his new partner, Tracy (Julia Benson, Stargate Universe). As the horror escalates, and the National Guard is unable to arrive in time to help fend off the chupacabra horde, Carlos and Tracy must gather their own army. Carlos reluctantly recruits a band of thugs — including his estranged son — to help, and the group of mostly Latino remaining characters turn history on its head by making their last stand against the monsters at the legendary Alamo (so, no, the chupacabra do not literally fight the Alamo building itself, contrary to how the movie’s title may read).

Syfy movies can be hit-or-miss in terms of their locations, editing and acting. (One constant is that the special effects will always be lousy, and this film does not disappoint there. The doglike chupacabra are CGI-created and look as flimsy as most other Syfy offerings.) Chupacabra vs The Alamo ends up being one of the more enjoyable Syfy movie offerings because its cast seems invested in the silly story, especially Erik Estrada, who does not only appear to be cashing a paycheck when he very well could have been. He not only gets dramatic when he needs to, but has a flair for wryly sending up his former hunky image during his motorcycle riding scenes, which recall his days patrolling the Southern California highways on CHiPs (especially when he is awfully “green-screened” on his bike into footage of San Antonio). Estrada also gets to utter lines like “Chupa on this!” before blowing away a chupacabra. It is interesting, as well, to see a primarily Latino cast in one of these films, and to see a Latino legend like the chupacabra brought to the screen. And while you wouldn’t want to read too much into a Syfy movie, there are a few societal commentaries, I guess, if you want to look.

For gore fans, you shouldn’t be disappointed by Chupacabra vs The Alamo. You’ll see a severed head fly, plenty of blood and — in a scene thankfully not shown outright — a horny teen guy experiencing a very unfortunate case of coitus interruptus at the fangs of a chupacabra that might make the fellows in the audience cross their legs in empathy.

Chupacabra vs The Alamo is what happens when a Syfy Saturday night movie fires on all its fun, campy cylinders — it brings back a C-list celeb from the past, playing off his former glory in a somewhat ironic way; it’s got a mythological monster that the network doesn’t have to buy the rights to, but that already has a built-in name recognition factor among most audiences; it’s got cheesy effects, violence and dialogue (“We’ve got chupacabras all up in here!”); and its actors know how to play it straight, funny or outright campy.

That doesn’t always happen in these movies, so I have to say that Chupacabra vs. The Alamo does not entirely chupa.

Chupacabra vs The Alamo premieres March 23 at 9pm ET/PT on Syfy.


Erik Estrada and Julia Benson in Chupacabra vs The Alamo: © 2013 Syfy Media, LLC