The Black Demon (2023)
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Written by: Boise Esquerra, Carlos Cisco
Starring: Carlos Solórzano, Fernanda Urrejola, Jorge A. Jimenez, Josh Lucas, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Raúl Méndez, Venus Ariel
THE BLACK DEMON (2023)
Directed by Adrian Grunberg
English and Spanish Language with Subtitles
Paul Sturgis, an employee for Nixon Oil, is dispatched to Baja to inspect an offshore oil rig named El Diamante, to see if it can be saved or whether it needs to be decommissioned. Bringing his wife and two children along for the trip, he expects to be just a few hours on the job before they can all enjoy a holiday in the area he and wife Ines conceived their eldest.
However, upon their arrival in the coastal town, Paul and Ines find the place a world away from the tropical paradise they once visited. With whispers of a demon plaguing their resort, it isn’t long before Paul and his family come face to face with the creature that’s terrorising the inhabitants – a megalodon known as the Black Demon.
Directed by Adrian Grunberg, who helmed Get The Gringo and Rambo: Last Blood, creature feature THE BLACK DEMON is a tease of a shark movie. You go in expecting a horror thriller featuring a rampaging prehistoric sea predator, one that has long been on the lips of the inhabitants of Baja California in real life, but instead you end up with a film on how capitalism can ruin nature and human lives. Whilst films like Jaws has touched upon this before with the beach being declared open by influential authorities despite signs of the presence of great white sharks, THE BLACK DEMON is one that chooses to grab you and ram it down your throat. The titular demonic shark takes a bit of a back seat, just popping up when it needs to, though there is the odd moment it’s allowed to take centre stage in the film’s major introduction of the beastie to Paul and his family.
The sun-kissed tropical location is the perfect setting for a creature feature, and I really enjoyed the first part of the movie where we meet Paul, wife Ines, and kids, teenager Audrey and young Tommy. Paul (Session 9‘s Josh Lucas) is a successful bloke and seems to have it all. Whilst he can come over a bit cocksure at times, his family seem really lovely. Ines, played by Fernanda Urrejola, isn’t just the mother of the movie. She’s our window into the culture as the South American native of the movie, compared to American Paul. With part of the film in Spanish with subtitles, we see Ines talking to the locals on behalf of Paul who appears to be rubbing them up the wrong way with his company-man attitude. However, even though she appears more relaxed in the community than her spouse, there’s some inhabitants there who clearly have no interest in welcoming the family.
From the coastal town to the oil rig itself, El Diamante, the movie is impressive to look at and the environments give it plenty of scope to approach the threat of the megalodon. Whilst a few different aspects of these locations are used for set piece attacks, the movie overall skimps on the shark element and opts to concentrate more on the politics and survival. The script is unfortunately on the weaker side for what then becomes a dialogue-heavy second half of the movie, despite encouraging performances by Jorge A. Jimenez, as workman Junior, and Julio Cesar Cedillo as his elder Chato, with little chihuahua Toro in tow. The introduction of these characters on the rig helps to bring background to the whole Demon debacle and serves to bring some home truths to light.
The kids in the movie, played by Venus Ariel and Carlos Solórzano, are likeable and play true to their respective characters, whilst having more input in the scenes than most children do in the genre. Ariel as Audrey is the protective older sister who realises the problems they’re dealing with and attempts to shield her little brother from the truth. Solórzano is the optimistic youngster Tommy who’s fascinated by the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, a deity the locals seem to worship and whose ties may have something to do with the killer creature in their midst.
For the most part, I enjoyed THE BLACK DEMON but its lack of substance once the story arrives at the offshore oil rig is noticeable and affects the pacing of the film and entertainment value the movie offers. Not even a cute Friends quip between siblings is enough to keep this boat afloat once it hits the halfway mark. There’s simply not enough threat of the CGI megaladon to really make this a shark film worth remembering, and, whilst it manages to be better than Jaws 2 (just about!), it fails to have the bite a movie like this needs.