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True story: Erik Estrada stars in Syfy channel's Chupacabra vs The Alamo


Julie Benson and Erik Estrada brace for danger. Syfy photo

Here’s the movie Erik Estrada was born to make. Although had he known that, the onetime CHiPs heartthrob might have checked out years ago.

In the proud tradition of Sharktopus, Mansquito and Mongolian Death Worm, this is Syfy network’s Chupacabra vs The Alamo. It finds the 64-year-old Estrada back on a chopper at least every 10 minutes or so. He’s sometimes very obviously riding in a soundstage next to a simulated green screen stretch of roadway. But at least he never falls off.

Premiering Saturday, March 23rd at 8 p.m. (central), Chupacabra vs The Alamo arguably is the best made-for-TV movie title since ABC’s 1982 epic, The Wild Women of Chastity Gulch. It also continues what now is a pretty long string of low-budget Syfy creature features intended to be bad in a good way. This one is fleetingly grin-worthy and gory through and through. Not that it’s nearly as much fun as Syfy’s 2012 holiday season classic, 12 Disasters of Christmas.

Estrada plays DEA agent Carlos Seguin. He lost his beloved wife two years ago and now is dealing with a super-insolent gang-banging son known as Spider (Jorgito Vargas Jr.) and a teen daughter, Sienna (Nicole Munoz), who also sasses him in an early scene.

So it’s almost R&R for Carlos to respond to a multiple corpse crime scene in and around a dank smugglers’ tunnel. One of the dead men is badly mutilated, and you can guess whodunit. But gruff Carlos initially is having none of this chupacabra nonsense, particularly when it comes from new partner Tracy (Julie Benson), whose mega-bosom is almost a supporting character. Or if you prefer, character development.

Even so, Carlos initially goes the sour ball route, foregoing any endowment fun and putting Tracy down at every opportunity until the chupas further make their presence felt. At a nighttime Cinco de Mayo party, for instance, a young teen who relieves himself is then relieved of his reliever. Chupas will stoop to anything.

Estrada’s Carlos eventually gets to jump a roadblock on his chopper -- not really him, of course -- while racing to the rescue of his trapped daughter and her friend.

“Chupa this!” he exclaims before blasting one of ‘em. That’s as good as this script gets. Carlos otherwise is stuck with lines such as “I will rest when the bad guys do.” And, “There’s something out there bigger than all of us.” And, “Ya see, I grew up on the streets.”

But yes, a big gang of hungry chupas eventually does get around to attacking the Alamo while Carlos, Taylor, Spider and an ad hoc army of thugs hole up inside. “Remember the Alamo” is mouthed more than once. And in the end, well, it would have been far better to let the chupas feast to their content on a small segment of the San Antonio population than to rather gleefully screw up the city’s main tourist attraction.

The special effects at best are cheesy, which is typical and maybe even intentional in a Syfy outing of this sort. Add a ridiculously generic, hard-pounding rock score and Carlos yelling “Be quiet!” in the chupas’ lair -- which sort of defeats the purpose. But Estrada does exhibit some energy, and he’s had great reconstructive work done on his glimmering pearly whites.

Even grading on a curve, Chupacabra vs The Alamo fails to rise to the level of enjoyable stupidity. Better luck next time, which could just as easily be Super Gargantuan Gila Monster vs Six Flags, starring Greg Evigan and featuring Uncle Barky as Corpse No. 20. I’m game, and the D-FW economy can always use a little boost.

GRADE: C-minus
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