‘Chupa’ Review: Retelling one of the most popular stories in Latino culture

Cover of the new Netflix movie Chupa. Chupa retells the story of the legend El Chupacabra and turns it into a familiy-friendly version.


Cover of the new Netflix movie “Chupa.” “Chupa” retells the story of the legend El Chupacabra and turns it into a familiy-friendly version.

I was visiting a friend’s house for some occasion, and it was late — witch hour late. I wanted to go out into the yard that was connected to some of the woods at the back cause I was bored.

I remember the wary words of my grandmother, “Con cuidado mija, no salgas!”

Disappointed, I asked why.

“El chupacabra le gusta salir a esta hora.”

Growing up Latina, we’ve all heard the story of the bloodsucking monster that feeds off goats — el chupacabra. Our parents and relatives would tell us this tale to get us to be well-behaved children. This story, rooted in Latino culture, has become a sensation across American television.

American television’s depiction of el chupacabra has always been loyal to the original legend by making chupacabra a dark and scary creature. Allowing future generations of Latinos to be scared of the bloodsucking monster.

Netflix’s “Chupa,” released on April 7, takes a different approach. Netflix turns the dark and scary chupacabra into a cute and cuddly Chupa. Chupacabra has been a story exploited by Americans television so much to the point that it has become so boring — yawn-inducing — to consume media that resembles chupacabra. Netflix changing chupacabra actually saved this movie from being another copy-paste cash-grab movie.

“Chupa” starts like any coming-of-age film with our main character, Alex, and the death of his father. Alex’s refusal to cope with his father’s death and rejection of his Mexican heritage leads to his mother sending him to Mexico for spring break.

Photo of main character Alex next to Chupa. (Netflix)

And so, our story begins. In Mexico, Alex reconnects with his Mexican heritage, and he (with the help of Chupa) is able to cope with the loss of his father and is able to come to terms with it. This is all done while Alex and his cousins are running away from some American men that want to kidnap Chupa to prove the existence of the great, the magnificent — Chupacabra.

This movie is short — 90 minutes short — so I was really worried about how they could resolve all the issues without making it feel rushed or badly ended. While it primarily focuses on Alex’s problem, the movie also attempts to resolve the issue of Chupa finding his family again and the grandpa’s deteriorating health, which concerns everyone in the house.

Netflix made sure to pace everything so that it would feel more natural, and though it can feel a little slow at the beginning, this really helped transition the movie through all the different stories they were trying to tell.

One moment that really stood out to me was when they were at the market. There were all these people and different stalls with so many things. Suddenly I found myself back in Reynosa, Mexico: the heat, the food, the music and the culture.

My formative years were spent visiting Mexico, and then I got lucky enough to live there for a year before we moved somewhere new again. I’m Venezuelan, but I found something so charming about Mexico, and to this day, I can handle my spice better than anyone else in my family.

Seeing the culture being translated through that scene really made me happy. I found memories I had forgotten because of time. Especially the music. I remember being young, really young, and sitting with my friends playing some games while our parents danced and sang along to songs similar to those played throughout the movie.

The whole interaction with his family and learning of his grandfather’s and father’s legacies as luchadores was very sweet and nostalgic but bittersweet. The movie really tried to show grief and how people cope with it. Throughout all the revisiting of memories of before, there were nice moments as Alex learned more about his heritage.

Seeing Luna give Alex the cassette really reminded me of how important music is. It has this power that few other things have, with food being the only capable rival. Growing up and hearing such a diverse mix of music in different countries made me fall in love with this version of sharing.

Although all of this was so fun to watch, the funniest was definitely when Quinn, the guy trying to capture Chupa and use his blood for medical purposes, who got surrounded by three grown chupacabras and then got absolutely wrecked by the grandfather with a move from his old wrestling days.

Watching Alex grow attached and then let go of Chuba was a nice way of showing him coming to terms with all the hurt he felt after his father died. And Chupa’s reunion with his family was so adorable but sad as Alex parted ways with him.

Photo of Chupa. This is the design chosen by Netflix. (Netflix)

Going into the film, I was unsure about this movie. I thought that the movie would be something that Netflix released to earn a bit of money with minimal effect, so the thing I was most worried about was the CGI and how Chupa would appear. And after watching it, the CGI was okay. Don’t get me wrong, Chupa still looked ‘fake,’ but it didn’t really matter, because this movie is targeted at a younger audience. But it still looks like Netflix made an effort to make it as realistic as possible.

I really liked the design of Chupa. I love how he in a way looks more like an enlarged dog with wings. I think it’s very fitting for Chupa and is able to make the viewers love and care about Chupa.

My family really liked the movie, too, and the different take on this story, especially considering how different chupacabras are portrayed originally. The chupacabra is supposed to be a large hairless canine with a row of spines down its back; it is supposed to have scaly skin that is either ashen grey or jet black.

So, seeing this very different version was quite a shock. Especially the wings! This got me thinking, what about the other stories I grew up with? The ones my parents would use to get me and my cousins to behave. What about La Llorona, El Silbón, El Coco? How would one take those stories and turn them into family-friendly ones?

I mean, La Llorona drowned her children in the river and was later condemned to spend the rest of eternity answering for her sins. Now she goes about the world kidnapping children that look similar to her own or that happen to cross her path. How would you turn that around?

Then we have El Silbon. This young man killed his father and gave the entrails to his mother to cook, saying they were deer. The mother noticed how the guts were not softening the way they usually would and confronted the son. After he confesses to his crimes, he is condemned to be whipped and then to spend forever carrying his father’s remains in a sack over his shoulder. The tricky thing about El Silbon is that when you hear his whistling close by, he is far away, but if you hear it off in the distance… well, you better start running.

El Coco would be the easiest I suppose. It’s just basically the boogie man. It’s a very famous story parents tell misbehaving children. If you don’t behave, the coco will come and take you away. So, I guess it’s less complicated than the others.

We had this really fun conversation talking about all the stories my parents would tell me and my sister. We tried to come up with different ideas and ridiculous myths that would work in our favor. It was a fun experience watching this with my family and the conversation we had after.


Seeing something I grew up scared of as something so cute and cuddly was different. I recommend watching this with your family and maybe revisiting old memories in the process. Sure, it’s a bit basic and can get boring at times, but it’s fun to see Chupa trying to learn how to fly.

All in all, the plot was nice, and it was sweet and cute in a way that I was not expecting.

And in the words of my mom when she watched the movie with me, “Quiero un peluche como Chupa.”

Chupa is available to stream on Netflix.