Jaws is considered the crème de la crème of sharksploitation primarily because the story isn’t just about a shark; there are other machinations to consider and enjoy. Yet as much as I might complain about another shark movie with a basic and barebones plot, I would much rather that than what all happened in The Black Demon. Adrian Grünberg‘s epic about a (kinda?) mystical megalodon ends up being far from epic and drowns a painful death, taking the audience along with it.
It’s never a good sign when a studio tries to bury a movie. The Black Demon swam under radars shortly before its theatrical release — how on Earth did this movie reach the big screen?? — but the lack of promotion was only delaying the inevitable: the movie is a real stinker. In this grossly inept creature-feature, which it barely classifies as, a Mexican legend serves as the basis. Josh Lucas plays the oil tycoon on his way to decommission an oil rig in Baja when he comes across the mythical but apparently real sea monster known locally as El Demonio Negro. As luck would have it, the protagonist’s family has also tagged along on this foreboding work-vacation. And to ensure everyone gets in on the feeding frenzy, the whole family ends up on the rig with a surviving megalodon circling the nearby waters. As fun as that setup might sound, I promise you this movie is the opposite of fun.
The movie illogically focuses on the human characters, who are all obnoxious and/or repugnant. In fact, Lucas and his character’s sometimes unreasonable spouse (Fernanda Urrejola) argue more often than the shark actually shows up on screen. That’s right; for a movie that runs close to 100 minutes, the big shark is only in it for maybe five minutes total. Those appearances are scanty and never as exciting as they should be. Who thought a movie about a megalodon should really be about a crooked oilman and his unpleasant family? Jaws was a masterful balance of human drama and shark action, whereas The Black Demon is egregiously lopsided.
There is nothing compelling about the Sturges family, and how the patriarch ultimately repents for his wrongdoing is excessive. Screenwriters Carlos Cisco and Boise Esquerra try to work in an environmental message, however it gets buried under all the melodrama and white saviorism. The Black Demon has no idea what it’s going for, which is evident all throughout. Is this a monster movie? An eco-conscious allegory? A family drama where the cracks are metaphorically sealed by the magical shark? The writers don’t know and neither will you.
The Black Demon somehow made it to theaters when it should have been left to waste on streaming. Instead, anyone who dares to watch is left in a confused and unamused state as this cinematic abomination flops around until the ending credits start to roll. You won’t remember this movie immediately after viewing or a year from now, despite the fact that there’s a giant shark. And honestly? It’s better that way. Nevertheless, I pray that El Demonio Negro will not only star in a better adaptation of his legend one day, he will also receive more screentime.
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