Summer is officially here, so it’s inevitably time for a killer shark movie to surface. Later this summer, The Meg 2 will be looing to take a bite out the box office with Jason Statham returning and the odd directorial choice of Ben Wheatley behind the camera. But for those of you who can’t wait to see a giant dinosaur shark eating people, The Black Demon arrives on VOD platforms this week. Previously, this story of a megalodon shark terrorizing an oil rig off the coast of Mexica saw a limited theatrical release. Maybe critics just hate prehistoric sharks, but this one fared even worse than The Meg.
Looking to turn a work trip into a family adventure, Paul Sturges drags his wife and children to a small Mexican village where his company’s oil rig sits off the coast. But the Sturges family finds the village nearly empty and in a state of disrepair. The small handful of remaining locals are immediately hostile. When Paul arrives at the rig, he finds it almost entirely abandoned with the exception of two lone workers. When they talk about a Mexican legend of a giant demon shark, ‘El Demonio Negro’, Paul initially dismisses the notion as folklore. However, Paul quickly finds himself and his family trapped on the rig with a very real 60 ft. shark circling and hunting.
The Black Demon Lacks the Scale – And Killer Shark – For Its Subject
Killer shark movies ultimately suffer the same inevitable problem as monster movies. That is, audiences expect to see their killer shark – or monster – in action. Of course, smaller scale movies can limit the exposure to mitigate lower budgets like The Shallows did with its shark or Rogue did with its crocodile. Nevertheless, the movie needs to eventually deliver some shark action. In this regard, The Black Demon utterly fails as the megalodon rarely factors into the thriller. While the CGI shark isn’t likely to win accolades, there’s been far worse put on screen in similar movies. Instead, the prehistoric shark doesn’t get much to do in its own movie where the body count and destruction never rise to the levels expected of a ‘big monster’ movie.
…The Black Demon utterly fails as the megalodon rarely factors into the thriller.
Much of problem lies with director Adrian Grünberg’s handling of the material. A previous Golden Raspberry Award nominee for their work on Rambo: Last Blood, Grünberg struggles to squeeze out much suspense out of writer Boise Esquerra’s story. Certainly, the setup itself has some promise even with budgetary limitation. A scene of a motor boat racing to the oil rig with a giant dorsal fin breaking the water behind it should be an edge-of-your moment regardless of the budget. Yet Grünberg does nothing with the scene. In addition to sluggish pacing, Grünberg struggles repeatedly to do much other than have the megalodon bump up against the rig.
The Black Demon Drowns Under a Weak Screenplay and Gaping Holes in Logic
Some of the problem here seems to stem from Grünberg and Esquerra locking themselves into a tone they can’t deliver on. As compared to The Meg, which understood it was a dumb popcorn flick, The Black Demon takes itself very seriously. Unfortunately, Esquerra’s screenplay is too unfocused and derivative to do much aside from delivering unintentional laughs. The Black Demon wants to be a serious eco-horror movie but does little aside from recycling ‘evil corporation’ tropes alongside a needless third act surprise. For some reason, Esquerra includes a pseudo-supernatural angle that just feels silly.
Unfortunately, Esquerra’s screenplay is too unfocused and derivative to do much aside from delivering unintentional laughs.
Moreover, Esquerra riddles The Black Demon’s screenplay with awful dialogue and gaping plot holes. When a character discovers a timebomb strapped to the rig platform – as denoted by its flashing neon timer – and doesn’t know long before everything blows up, you’re not sure whether to laugh or just turn the movie off. It’s also another example of a missed opportunity to drum up tension. Even Josh Lucas (Session 9, The Forever Purge) – a normally reliable character actor – struggles with the material. Lucas turns in a surprisingly weak performance. Or maybe he just realized how bad things were going and dialed up the camp intentionally.
The Black Demon is a Tadpole Among Killer Shark Movies
If you thought the trailers at least promised a guilty please in The Black Demon, you’ll likely be very disappointed. No, The Black Demon isn’t an intentionally (or unintentionally) funny killer shark movie in the tradition of Sharknado. And it’s not a decent thriller that mitigates a smaller budget with clever camera work or compelling human characters. This is just a plain, bad movie. Whether it’s the lack of a killer shark in a movie about a megalodon, poor pacing, confused and often illogical plotting, or asinine dialogue and subpar acting, this isn’t a time-waster – it’s a waste of time.