July 11, 2023

THE BLACK DEMON: Context is Everything

2023 / 100 min
Available at www.moviezyng.com
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

25 years ago, I’d have probably given The Black Demon a much worse review than the one you’re about to read.

First of all, I’ve since accepted the fact that there will never be another Jaws. Not only is it the best shark movie ever made, it’s the best movie ever made. To continue using that classic as the barometer to gauge every other killer creature feature is not-only pointless, it ain’t really fair.

Second, the past quarter-century has spewed-out gajillions of cheapjack sharkfests, most of which are either laughably bad, intentionally campy, or both. The bar has dropped so low over the years that when something like The Meg comes along, it seems like a masterpiece.

In that context, The Black Demon isn’t a good movie overall…but not too bad for a shark movie. Though overly somber and self-important for its own good, at least we’re spared the self-aware smarminess of Sharknado and its ilk. Additionally, the attempt to bring relevant social commentary and an environmental message into the narrative is admirable (though pretty heavy handed).

Never buy a boat from IKEA.
The story itself features Josh Lucas as Paul, a company man tasked with inspecting a oil rig just off the Mexican coast. He brings along his wife, Ines (Fernanda Urrejola), and kids for sort of a working vacation. But when they arrive, the once-thriving local village has since fallen onto hard times. Through somewhat ridiculous circumstances, the entire family ends up trapped on board the dilapidated rig, which is constantly being attacked by a megalodon shark that the locals call El Demonio Negro, a mythical creature that represents nature’s revenge on humanity’s environmental greed.

Also on-board the rig is Chato (Julio Cesar Cedillo), a maintenance worker who mostly serves to provide exposition about El Demonio Negro…which Paul refuses to believe. Chato also emerges as the film’s moral compass, especially once it becomes increasingly apparent that Paul is the film’s true antagonist (and maybe the object of the shark’s wrath).

Since the title creature is also a megalodon, I suppose comparisons to The Meg are inevitable. The Black Demon isn’t nearly as much spectacular fun, nor is the shark as convincing. In fact, we don’t actually see it all that much, which suggests even the filmmakers weren’t too confident in the special effects. Still, it’s Jurassic Park compared to the craptastic creatures cranked out by The Asylum.

With a low body count, perfunctory characters and rudimentary performances (save for Lucas’ chuckleworthy overacting), The Black Demon isn’t great, but it’s occasionally engaging and at least there’s an earnest attempt to create something more than a SyFy Channel cheapie. It's obviously no Jaws, but it’s no Sharktopus, either. Surely, that counts for something.

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