Chupacabra Terror (2005)

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Witness the birth of a new movie description, SPOS, which stands for Serviceable Piece of Shit. The SyFy Channel can always be counted for a SPOS, and that’s what we have here. Though it played on SyFy as Chupacabra Dark Seas, it was originally, less evocatively, titled Chupacabra Terror. In the interest of truth in advertising, there is a chupacabra involved—and not much terror—though the GiaS (Guy in a Suit) is handled competently. Sometimes that’s all the silver lining you get.

But not here. In addition to an adequate creature, you get a decent lead in Captain Randolph (John Rhys Davies) and an even better mad scientist with Dr. Peña (Giancarlo Esposito). Along with the Captain’s curvy cutie daughter (Chelan Simmons, a petulant blond who, not only couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag, probably couldn’t spell it), and some other guy (Dylan Neal), they spend the majority of the movie below deck of a luxury cruise ship searching for the titular critter.

Note on the mise-en-scene: It is apparent after about five seconds, that they are not, in fact, passengers on an immense ship, but rather four actors on endless walkabout in another anonymous industrial location (Anonymous Industrial Walkabout, another long-needed category). In order to reinforce the nautical illusion director and co-writer John Shepphird wisely thought to tack life preservers on the majority of the walls, even deep in the bowels of the ship, which, if you think about it, doesn’t make a lick of sense.

As for the chupacabra itself, actor (or stuntman or temp or intern) Mark Viniello, who resembles a squat, vaguely canine, wingless gargoyle, tears out a few dozen throats, and appears to have the annoying ability to be everywhere at once when in attack mode, followed by long periods of suspended animation in which the principals wander around saying not much of anything. Esposito, who plays the amoral scientist, repeats the line “I captured him before, I can do it again,” at least five times.

There is some entertainment value to be savored in Chupacabra Terror, but it’s a mighty thin broth.

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House at the End of the Street (2012)

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Suburban Gothic, anyone? Hollywood “it” girl Jennifer Lawrence stars as Elissa, a high-spirited lass in a tight-fitting tank top who moves to a new town with her single mom Sarah (Elisabeth Shue). As luck would have it, the only real estate deal they can swing is right next door to a house where psycho teenager Carrie Anne stabbed her parents to death four years before. Now that’s a tough rental market.

Elissa befriends Carrie Anne’s older brother Ryan (Max Theriot), who lives in the murder house, but was apparently away staying with his aunt when the killings went down. And since the only other boy in town that’s shown an interest in her tries to rape her at a party, Elissa falls for the mysterious Ryan, who at least has the decency to drive a pretty sweet car and offer her a lift home during a timely cloudburst. Soon Elissa is securely enmeshed in a tangled familial web, and disturbing secrets of the Norman Bates variety come bubbling to the surface.

House at the End of the Street is nothing special, but writer David Loucka and director Mark Tonderai provide sufficiently well-shuffled plot twists that keep us guessing—at least until they’re rather haphazardly explained. Lawrence is a compelling actress even in a contrived damsel-in-distress role, and she works hard to nurture whatever emotional investment on our part she can muster. It’s only a PG-13, so it’s light on bloody mayhem, but there are a few decent jump-scares. If you’re an adolescent dude and want to show your girlfriend a movie that’s scary enough to promote hand-holding (or whatever), but not so horrifying that she flees the room, House at the End of the Street should do the trick.