THE BLACK DEMON Is An Intense Tour De Force Battle Between Humans And Nature. This Isn’t Your Typical Shark Film
By Chris Hammond
TITLE: THE BLACK DEMON
Director: Adrian Grünberg
Writers: Boise Esquerra (written by), Carlos Cisco (story by)
Starring : Josh Lucas, Fernanda Urrejola, Julio César Cedillo, Venus Ariel, and Carlos Solórzano
Distributor: The Avenue
Paul Sturges (Lucas) who works for an oil company takes his family on vacation to Mexico. Here he mixes business with pleasure and things take a turn for the worst. The little town they intend to stay in is pretty deserted. The locals blame the oil company for awaking a long-dormant Megalodon shark known as
“The Black Demon”. Sturges tells his wife Ines (Urrejola) to wait at the local bar with their kids Audrey (Ariel) and Tommy (Solórzano) while he goes out to inspect the rig.
His boat driver won’t go on the water because of the Black Demon, but he does set Paul up with his own tiny boat with a mini motor. Once at the rig, he realizes something isn’t right, he finds the last two remaining rig workers who have seen the big shark’s attacks firsthand. His wife is harassed by a local in the bar and she and the kids end up hiring a man on a boat to bring them out to the rig. Once here they are under attack from the Megalodon and must fight to survive.
Director Adrian Grünberg (Rambo: Last Blood) directs this film, but don’t expect it to be just another “sharksploitation” entry in the ever-growing genre. This is a film that focuses more so on the message of what humans are doing to nature and the consequences of our actions. Don’t worry though there is plenty of action and although the message is a deep one the film doesn’t constantly smack the audience in the face with it.
There’s also the secondary plot of the Sturges family. It’s about struggles and redemption. Paul has secrets and isn’t proud of some things his company made him do. This doesn’t stop him from trying to right the wrongs he’s done. When put in a corner, he proves what type of person he really is.
Josh Lucas plays Paul Sturges with expertise and proficiency. None of the dialogue he says feels forced or generic. There’s a struggle in this man between being scared and being a father. The film is elevated by the acting, it’s one of the strongest assets for creature feature films. If the acting isn’t believable, the audience may tune out.
The film is based on real folklore about stories from fishermen around Baja California, the Black Demon legend has been told from generation to generation. There are many elements that are hinted at that relate to this mythology. I’m glad the film layers these elements into the storyline, but don’t focus on it wholly. There is a multitude of subplots at work in The Black Demon and all are intertwined in a very edge-of-your-seat story.
The shark takes a back seat to humanity in this film. The shark’s on-screen presence mimics one of the most memorable shark films of our time Jaws. This really helps elevate the tension and allows the story to fully be recognized. Grünberg has a clear vision for THE BLACK DEMON which is fully recognized. He has this to say about the film
“With THE BLACK DEMON, we set out to tell a story about a family coming together to survive an existential threat. But more than that, THE BLACK DEMON is a movie about how we’ve mistreated the earth and put ourselves in this very predicament—we’ve made our bed, and now we must lie in it. The titular creature is not a hellbent, unkind predator, but rather a physical embodiment of retribution. The Black Demon is an emissary acting on behalf of Tlaloc (the Aztec god of rain and fertility) to reclaim an ocean that was laid to waste by human greed and desire. At the core of this film is this very tension of who is right and who is wrong; who are the real monsters of our time?”
The Dominican Republic (where the film was shot) doubles as the little shore town of Mexico. It works to add authenticity to a story about a giant shark. Now for that shark design, well it is CGI, but not as noticeable as some CGI-rendered creatures. If the film had a bigger budget, this is where some of the money should go. That all being said, knowing it’s CGI won’t necessarily take you out of the film. There’s enough going with the plots and stellar acting.
The hypnotic orchestration score by Andres Penella will not soon be forgotten. It combines strings, choir, wind instruments, guitars, and pianos in a very adventurous way and sound.
The Black Demon is definitely a high point for creature features with a purpose. It entertains and may even pull at your heartstrings. There are many messages in the film that don’t take away from the action thriller but help it to keep its head above water. This is one that fans will enjoy and not soon forget.
Be sure to look out for the upcoming interview with the director Adrian Grünberg later today !
The Avenue will release the action film THE BLACK DEMON in theatres exclusively on April 28, 2023
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