Review by Cole Groth
Good shark movies are incredibly hard to come by. I’d argue that it’s just as hard to find a shark thriller that isn’t terrible, and that’s where The Black Demon comes into play. With a false promise of a terrifying shark but a surprisingly interesting script, this film isn’t quite good, but it’s refreshingly not bad.
Josh Lucas stars as an employee of a massive oil company who takes his family on an idyllic vacation in Mexico. Things quickly turn sour as his family gets stranded on an oil rig with a ferocious shock who tries its all to protect its territory. Over the 100-minute runtime, they have to find ways to survive the threat, which grows deadlier with every passing minute.
The immediate biggest problem with this is that the shark doesn’t appear in the film very much. Throughout the whole runtime, it appears for a collective of maybe two minutes, making it feel like a very underwhelming threat. Characters spend most of the time talking about how dangerous the “black demon” is rather than actually showing it to us. When the shark does appear, it’s menacing, but it’s mostly too little too late, and audiences will feel frustrated by the lack of its titular villain.
Toward the movie’s end, audiences should be able to piece together that the “black demon” that everybody refers to isn’t a shark. Writers Boise Esquerra and Carlos Cisco take the villain to an environmental approach, with the demon being the product of the oil rig Paul works on. Environmental metaphors can be done well, and while this one subverts the shark thriller genre, it’s too on the nose to be anything but silly.
As far as acting goes, this is surprisingly solid. Josh Lucas, Fernanda Urrejola, and Julio César Cedillo give it their all, and the script is quite good from a dialogue perspective. I was expecting to cringe throughout most of the runtime, and while there are still a few eye-rolling moments, it’s mostly relegated to the expository stuff at the beginning.
While there are some shining moments in The Black Demon, it doesn’t blend very well. The lack of any shark action can be somewhat balanced out by an otherwise decent drama, but it doesn’t help that it’s a rather dull experience. There’s not much of a reason for this to be longer than 90 minutes. It’s a very simple premise that feels stretched out for no reason. We’re told way too much through sloppy exposition when any viewer truly wants to see action between Paul and the shark. It’s not quite a bad experience, but those expecting anything more than a moderately entertaining time will be disappointed.
The Black Demon releases in theaters starting April 28.