The Black Demon Review

The Black Demon
The Black Demon
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Meg 2: The Trench shouldn’t be nervous about Adrian Grunberg’s The Black Demon stealing its thunder as the megalodon movie. In their movie, Carlos Cisco and Boise Esquerra change Mexico’s terrifying myth of El Demonio Negro to an everyman thriller on sea environment involving fisherman tales of freakishly large great white or megalodon that haunt the waters of Gulf of California. Unfortunately, inspirations from whispered tales don’t amount to excitement due to a host of issues that plague most swing-and-miss shark movies that come out nowadays. Aztec mythology only keeps the outrageous shark-attack-on-a-mostly-vacated-oil-rig premise afloat for so long, since mentions of Tlaloc (God of Rain) or symbolic idols aren’t interesting enough to distract from the waterlogged nonsense of this anti-corporate commentary with rows of dull teeth.

There are characters you love to hate, and then there are characters who hang around and drag a movie down when all you want to see them become is shark food. Josh Lucas stars as oil company exec Paul Sturges, one of recent memory’s most detestable lead characters. Cisco and Esquerra purposely overwrite him as the outsider who won’t acknowledge the harm his corporation brought to an otherwise peaceful Mexican fishing village, but he’s just abysmally grating. He embodies the stereotypical caricature of the bullish and disrespectful American abroad, treating locals and their beliefs like washed-ashore garbage to a distracting degree. “Take your superstitious Aztec bullshit and shove it up your ass,” he tells the local workers, despite just witnessing a larger-than-life shark swallow a small boat. It’s horrendously exaggerated for too long making for laughable plot advancement as Sturges dooms everyone while they shrug and obey.

He is there in order to determine whether or not his beloved oil rig should be decommissioned, but instead he finds himself face to face with The Black Demon, a giant shark-like creature that has killed most of the crew and scared away the rest. So we probably missed the best part of the story. Action goes down within this rusty, chewed-apart structure which was built to withstand category 5 weather conditions –but not a massive maneater that keeps bashing support pillars at ramming speeds, it seems.

If anyone stands out, it’s veteran Mexican actor Julio Cesar Cedillo as Chato, one of two survivors left on the rig when Sturges arrives. His camaraderie with best buddy Junior (Jorge A. Jimenez) is an enjoyable doubleteam against Sturges when he starts spouting vaguely xenophobic nonsense, echoing the frustrations of foreign towns upended by companies that promise job-building prosperity only to leave territories in worse shape. Cedillo rises as a voice for the voiceless in a story about cultural selfishness over all else, while Sturges’ accompanying family becomes lost in a script that continually uses them as verbal punching bags barely worth a mention. These are some dummy characters, with many examples that begin with Sturges’ first idea after seeing the Black Demon being that Chato and Junior should dive into the oil-clouded depths and hope for the best.

The cinematographer will be stymied by the searing light washing out the screen with brightness in the Dominican Republic, which is also known as a poor choice for outdoor shootings like this one. The oceanic horror of it is not pretty either as it seems the kind of camera used changes from scene to scene and picture quality fluctuates. There are beats of other deep-dives or night sequences after this production design that feels dystopian at sea – like the metal hideaway far removed from civilization – but still studio pools make claustrophobia unavoidable. It’s a digital effects-heavy film that disappoints many, and there isn’t much gore in such a low body count.

An evil robot, the Black Demon itself, follows behind leaving floating human organs; this suggests he kills because he wants to rather than to eat. There’s no specialness about the animation or proper explanation of the mythological creature’s abilities. The demon does that when characters hallucinate everything from jellyfish to rescue boats? So are these digital effects any different from those found in countless shark thrillers (incomplete shadow blotches beneath choppy waves; little violence flailing around chaotically [frantic cuts, limited capacity for effects])? Opportunities are scarce between one or two overboard close shaves and a diving bell with jaws that cannot hold back the Demon – Grunberg misses them.


The Black Demon simply goes through the same frustrating paces as another below-par shark attack film. However, Josh Lucas’ portrayal of Paul Sturges might not for everyone have been on point due to an obvious resentment – which is not good television.. No way could another CGI-finned beast even begin to bridge tremendous chasms between fun-filled creature features and socially conscious commentaries about the multinational exploitation of third-world nations. It’s hard telling whether The Black Demon would quench viewers desiring aquatic horror stories or not.

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