The movie the black demon Adrian Grunberg’s far more modest The Black Demon won’t be stealing the thunder from Meg 2: The Trench when it comes to megalodon movies. The authors Carlos Cisco and Boise Esquerra use fishermen’s tales of a freakishly enormous great white or megalodon that haunts its seas, especially the Gulf of California, to turn Mexico’s vicious El Demonio Negro legend into a generic eco-aquatic thriller. Due to a number of problems that affect the majority of swing-and-miss shark movies that are released these days, inspirations from whispered tales sadly don’t amount to excitement. Since references to Tlaloc (God of Rain) or symbolic idols aren’t interesting enough to divert attention from the watery lunacy of this anti-corporate diatribe with rows of dull teeth, Aztec mythology can only sustain the ridiculous shark attack on a mostly abandoned oil rig premise for so long.
There are characters you adore to hate, and then there are those that drag a movie down by sticking around when all you want to see happen is for them to turn into shark chow. One of the most abhorrent protagonist characters in recent memory is played by Josh Lucas as oil firm executive Paul Sturges. He is purposefully overwritten by Cisco and Esquerra as the foreigner who refuses to realize the devastation his firm caused to a tranquil Mexican fishing community, but he is just abhorrently annoying. He exemplifies the classic image of the arrogant and contemptuous American traveller, treating natives and their beliefs like trash that has washed up on the coast.
Despite having just seen a huge shark swallow a tiny boat, he tells the local employees, “Take your superstitious Aztec bullshit and shove it up your ass.” For too long, it is horribly exaggerated, leading to ludicrous plot development as Sturges dooms everyone while they shrug and comply.
We definitely missed the finest part of the story because when he arrives to determine if his prized oil rig should be decommissioned, he comes across a huge, shark-like monster known as The Black Demon that has already slaughtered most of the workers and scared away the remainder. A giant maneater that appears to continuously ramming support pillars at ramming speeds does not appear to be able to endure the rusted, chewed-apart structure, where action stuffily takes place. The structure was meant to survive category 5 weather conditions.
These are a few fictitious personalities.
The only other survivor on the rig when Sturges arrives is Chato, played by famous Mexican actor Julio Cesar Cedillo. When Sturges begins spouting vaguely xenophobic drivel, mirroring the complaints of foreign communities upended by corporations that promise job-building wealth but leave regions in worse shape, his companionship with closest friend Junior (Jorge A. Jimenez) is an amusing double-team against Sturges. While Sturges’ accompanying family is lost in a storyline that repeatedly utilizes them as verbal punching bags barely deserving of a mention, Cedillo rises as a voice for the voiceless in a tale about cultural greed taking precedence above all else.
Sturges’ initial suggestion after seeing the Black Demon was that Chato and Junior should plunge into the oil-covered depths and hope for the best is only one of many examples of these dummy characters.
The Black Demon never looks fantastic, but outdoor scenes shot on location in the Dominican Republic suffer the most from a stark whiteness that hinders cinematographer Antonio Riestra’s work. The sort of camera utilized and the picture quality appear to alter scene by scene in this maritime horror movie, making it not particularly appealing.
Other deep dives or nighttime sequences can’t cover up the claustrophobia that results from filming in studio pools, but the weathered and broken oil rig location at least honours production design that feels dystopian at sea – like the metal hideout far isolated from civilization. To many people’s dismay, there is a strong emphasis on digital effects, which also applies to the minimal gore in a film with such a low body count.
Like so many shark thrillers that have come and gone, the digital effects are unimpressive.
The Black Demon is a digital meanie that kills for sport rather than eating, leaving floating bits of human flesh in its wake. The animation is not particularly unique, and the powers of the legendary creature are not sufficiently explained. That’s evidently the demon’s trick when characters start seeing jellyfish and rescue boats in their hallucinations.
Digital effects are unimpressive, much like the ones in the countless shark thrillers that have come and gone. They range from fake shadow splotches that don’t organically mix under rough waves to minimal violence that thrashes around with a chaotic cartoonishness (frantic editing, limited effects capabilities). There are few opportunities for excitement, from a diving bell that can’t survive the Demon’s jaws to one or two more close calls overboard, and Grunberg fails to take advantage.