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‘The Black Demon’ (review)

Produced by Javier Chapa, Jon Silk,
Arianne Fraser, Delphine Perrier

Written by Boise Esquerra, Carlos Cisco
Directed by Adrian Grünberg
Starring Josh Lucas, Fernanda Urrejola,
Julio Cedillo, Héctor Jiménez, Raúl Méndez,
Venus Ariel, Jorge A. Jimenez, Edgar Flores,
Omar Patin, Arturo Duvergé, Luis del Valle

 

It’s Black Demon vs. White Devil in Adrian Grunberg’s (Get the Gringo, Rambo: Last Blood) Megalodon flick with a conscience that although competently made and surprisingly well-acted never quite distinguishes itself in a meaningful way from similar fare in the ever-expanding giant killer shark sub-genre, nor, thankfully, does it sink to the depths of Jersey Shore Shark Attack or the like.

When oilman Paul Sturges (Josh Lucas; The Forever Purge, Ford v. Ferrari) brings his family along on a business trip to Baja they quickly discover the once thriving, company-built community has become a tourist-less shell of its former self due to the environmental damage (and maybe something a little bigger) caused by the nearby off-shore oil platform Paul has been sent to inspect.

Now stranded together in the middle of the ocean on the decaying rig, the well-to-do family must join forces with the two surviving blue-collar workers to fight their way back to the safety of the shore while trying to outwit a vengeful, seemingly supernaturally-manifested swimming metaphor and a literal ticking clock.

While you may come for the big ass shark, it’s people who are at the root of the problem in this easy to digest Human Nature vs. Nature horror/thriller. From unsavory locals attempting to prey on the out-of-towners to corporate cover-ups with unhappy endings, people aren’t always who they seem in Carlos Cisco and Boise Esquerra’s economical screenplay which wisely keeps the focus on its solid stable of actors and not its fair to middling titular CGI antagonist.

As Walking White Privilege, Josh Lucas’ presence may lend some star power and credibility to the proceedings but it’s Fernanda Urrejola (Cry Macho, Narcos: Mexico) as Paul’s street-wise wife and mother of two, Ines, who has a foot firmly planted in both the corporate and Mexican cultures, and Julio Cesar Cedillo (Queen of the South, Narcos: Mexico) as Chato, an oil worker who has selflessly decided to stay behind to keep people away, who steal the show.

Even as Paul transitions from hero to heel and finally finds the road to redemption, it’s Ines and Chato who anchor our rooting interest while the strictly by-the-numbers shark exploits play out in the black, oily murk that surrounds them.

Sure, Grunberg may hit us over the head with messaging that would make Roland Emmerich blush, but his “man’s greed has unleashed a vengeful spirit creature of local legend taking out its frustrations on an evil corporation destroying the environment” angle works. Sadly, some intriguing supernatural vibes early on are all but abandoned by the mid-point; a missed opportunity that would have helped define the movie and allowed it to stand on its own.

While The Black Demon certainly won’t win any awards for originality, it doesn’t have to as long as it serves its sole purpose; to entertain. So if you’re looking for some Man vs. Megalodon comfort food you really can’t go wrong with The Black Demon.

Just know you may come away from the table still hungry.

 

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