Interview With ‘Chupacabra Territory’ Director Matt McWilliams

Chupacabra Territory (2016) was a fun found footage horror film that shined light on a subject that’s barely touched in the horror genre. The director of Chupacabra Territory, Matt McWilliams, was wonderful enough to take the time to talk to PopHorror and answer our questions about him and his film.

PopHorror: What inspired you to go into filmmaking?

Matt McWilliams: I have always had a lot of respect for the way films can affect us. They have this ability to touch us on so many emotional levels. Films entertain us, scare us, make us laugh and cry, give us different perspectives and teach us things that we never knew or felt. I think this is why I enjoy them so much and why I always wanted to make them. It is also the absolute creative outlet.

PopHorror: What films and/or directors do you get your inspiration from?

Matt McWilliams: Lately, I have been kind of obsessed with films that have very little dialogue. Valhalla Rising is one of them. I also love the film Wall-E… minimal dialogue but the visual storytelling is wonderful. The first fifteen minutes of There Will Be Blood has no dialogue, but Paul Thomas Anderson does an amazing job of setting up the story and the main character. Other the that, I have always loved Sam Raimi and his films. Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings was a huge deal for me. I also love Dead Alive and District 9. I respect Guy Ritchie for his style, Tarantino for his storytelling and dialogue, and Wes Anderson for his creative and sometimes obtuse stories. Stanley Kubrick, of course. I could go on and on.

PopHorror: Did you go to film school?

Matt McWilliams: Yes, I graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelors in Media Arts and followed that up with a film program at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.

PopHorror: How did you come up with the story for Chupacabra Territory?

Matt McWilliams: The whole story kind of manifested on its own. I try to take a long backpacking trip once a year with friends as a way to decompress and recharge from all the commotion and technology that bombards us everyday. At night, we would often go bushwhacking with our headlamps deep in the forest, just to get up and move around. There would always be that one guy who wanted to keep going even though we were already too far away from our camp. When that happened, I would always say, “This looks like Chupacabra territory,” as a warning that we were teetering dangerously close to becoming lost in the dark. That usually struck the right chord.

Years later on a camping trip to the Olympic Peninsula, I asked my friends to humor me and act like we were all on an adventure to find the Chupacabra while I filmed it. They played along well enough and I was able to cut this little trailer from it. I showed it to my Producer Chris Maltauro and he loved it. At the time, he was in the middle of selling one of his other films to a VOD company. He showed them the trailer and they got all excited about it. So we said, “Let’s make it happen.”

PopHorror: What made you decide to make Chupacabra Territory found footage?

Matt McWilliams: In college, Gordy Hoffman talked to my class and screened his film titled A Coat of Snow which was a found footage film. I remember watching the film thinking it was real. After that, I was in awe of this raw new genre that created such a realistic representation. It was like a window into someone’s life and their experiences. Only later did I come to appreciate The Blair Witch Project and the countless found footage films that followed. I have also done a lot of work in reality TV, so it was familiar territory.

PopHorror: What fascinated you about the Chupacabra legend that made you want to make a film about it?

Matt McWilliams: I felt that the Chupacabra was this untapped creature. Not many people even know what it is. The only film I ever saw about it was Chupacabra Terror. If you research the Chupacabra, there are countless representations of the creature along with many different theories of where it came from. Sure, there are some basic characteristics, but I took this as a license to create a creature from the ground up while taking some liberties with the lore. I felt like we could make this creature be anything we wanted. That’s what interested me about it.

PopHorror:What scenes in the film were the most difficult to shoot?

Matt McWilliams: All the scenes that involved our Producer and FX artist George Troester and his blood cannon are at the top of the list. The tent scene where Megan Hensley gets dragged inside and murdered was one of them. We only had one take and had to rehearse until we got it down. I believe it was Brad Doresy who was tasked with cutting a hole in the tent and feeding a rope to Megan while pulling her inside as George shot the tent with blood. The other scene that comes to mind is when Elliot Book is attacked by the Chupacabra. Again, we really had only one take because we didn’t have a wardrobe replacement, so once the Elliot was covered in black ooze, that was that. Fortunately, George hit his mark every time and the shots turned out great.

PopHorror: What was your favorite scene to shoot?

Matt McWilliams: I’d say the last shot of the film when Sarah Nicklin is dragged away was my favorite scene. We placed her on a tarp that had two ropes tied to the end. She actually had to hold on to the corner while being pulled otherwise the tarp would just slip out from underneath. Luckily there was no limit to how many times we could shoot it, so after some trial and error, we nailed it.

PopHorror: Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you’d like to talk about?

Matt McWilliams: I have had this dark coming-of-age film bouncing around my head since college that I will be shooting this summer as a short film. I’m excited check that off the list. Chris and I have been working on a sequel to Chupacabra Territory, so that looks like it may be our next project. I also have another script that is in development and nearing completion, as well as several concepts that are in the early stages of development.

PopHorror: Would you say you’ve found your home in horror, or will you be exploring other genres in your career?

Matt McWilliams: I do love horror, but I don’t want to limit myself to just one genre. There are so many amazing stories out there that, as a filmmaker, storyteller and director, I want to explore all of the possibilities and genres. I’m interested in the spectrum of emotions, primal instinct, love, loss and the human condition. Ignoring a story because it’s something other then horror would be a mistake in my mind. It also comes down to what is inspiring me at the time.

PopHorror: Matt, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions! We wish you the best of luck with your upcoming projects, and if there will be a sequel to Chupacabra Territory, we would definitely love to watch it. And to our readers, Chupacabra Territory is now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Target, and you can check out our spoiler-free review of it below!

Chupacabra Territory (2016) – Movie Review

About Karli Lawson

I basically grew up watching horror films and spooky things. I watched my first horror film when I was 4 years old. I've wanted to be a writer ever since I've read Stephen King books in middle school. I love writing and talking about my favorite genre. I hope to one day be successful in screenwriting and filmmaking. Everything horror, of course!

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