The Last of the Chupacabras (2021) – REEL Review

Director: Jessica Mendez Siqueiros | 7mins | Family, Short

Chepa (Melba Martinez) is a tamale vendor on the streets of LA – and ‘the last of her kind’. After opening a box of her puppets, she accidentally summons Chup – a Chupacabra – unexpectedly bringing a bit more happiness with it.

A new initiative series created by Disney called Launchpad aims to bring fresh ideas to cinema through new creators from minority backgrounds, The Last of the Chupacabras likely being the most noteworthy of the outings, written and directed by Jessica Mendez Siqueiros. It feels more like a Disney film than the rest of the series, in the sense that the characters and settings could be seen in a longer piece – but the short in itself is still a highly entertaining watch.

The aforementioned Chepa is a friendly face around the neighbourhood, but selling her Mexican food on the side of the street is so rare that she’s even a spot on a sightseeing tour. It doesn’t dissuade her though, even when one of her neighbours peers from behind their curtains, almost afraid to be noticed.

Martinez’s performance is the central element to the film, as there’s barely any screen time for other characters (besides Chup), her smile and laugh are infectious enough to carry us through, but her likability really brings another layer as well.

An interesting aspect is the choice for Chup to be a puppet, and far from hiding this fact either. Though they aren’t exactly strings on show, the way the creature moves is purposefully clunky – it’s part of humour throughout, though not exactly a comedy there are many elements that will make you chuckle.
Aside from the niceties, The Last of the Chupacabras is a lovely story of misunderstanding one another, and another more serious look at judging someone by their looks and the way they speak. It’s effortlessly charming, making Siqueiros one to watch.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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