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The Black Demon (2023) Review

After the trainwreck that was Cocaine Shark and with the specter of Jurassic Shark 3: Seavenge looming over me, The Black Demon, or any other shark film for that matter, may not have been an obvious choice. But this one caught my attention when it was announced and the idea of a finned fear film with enough of a budget to give it some bite was hard to say no to.

Paul Sturges (Josh Lucas, Session 9, The Forever Purge) is the safety officer for Nixon Oil, a corporate name that does not exactly inspire confidence. He has been sent to Baja to inspect one of the company’s rigs and has brought his family along. He may have to work but his wife Ines (Fernanda Urrejola, The Fist of the Condor, Narcos: Mexico), daughter, Audrey (Venus Ariel, NCIS: New Orleans, Exposed), and son Tommy (Carlos Solorzan, Yoga Friends, Flamin’ Hot) can have a vacation.

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Unfortunately, it’s looking like anything but a pleasant trip. In the time since his last visit to the rig, the down has become nearly deserted and the people who remain are hostile towards him and his family. The boatman who is supposed to take him to the rig says it “woke the demon”. Meanwhile, after a run-in with drunken locals who have an unhealthy interest in Audrey, Innes brings the family out to join Paul on the rig where Paul is discovering that there is a major leak, and all of the crew are missing except for Chato (Julio Cesar Cedillo, Sicario, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada), Junior (Jorge A. Jimenez, Machete Kills), Narcos, and their chihuahua, Toro.

Director Adrian Grunberg seems to have an obsession with Mexico, both of his previous features, Get the Gringo and Rambo: Last Blood were set there as well. This time he’s working from a script by Carlos Cisco (Star Trek: Discovery, East Los High) and Boise Esquerra (Blackwater, Surrender at Crow Lake) that ties in folklore, giant monsters and ecological concerns.

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It seems the rig has been leaking for months but headquarters didn’t think it was worth the money to fix. They didn’t even bother to tell Paul before they sent him. Has this caused the Aztec deity Tlaloc to return and take revenge? Or is it just a megalodon that was swimming by and developed a taste for oil worker sushi? The Black Demon certainly wants you to believe this is something more than another rip-off of The Meg, as people begin to hallucinate and secrets are revealed.

Unfortunately, for a monster movie The Black Demon is stingy with views of the monster and for a thriller, there’s not much sense of tension as they try to find a way off the rig before its imminent destruction. Too much time is spent on conflicts between Paul and Chato over the company’s responsibility for the leak and its effect on the villagers. Unfortunately, this never gets deeper or more incisive than platitudes and talking points and accomplishes nothing except eat-up time that could be put to better use.

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The scenes of the shark stalking anyone unlucky enough to be in the water are fairly well executed, but there aren’t nearly enough of them. And when we do get them they’re capped off with cliched shocks that the viewer will be expecting. The Black Demon does have better than average CGI, or maybe my standards are just low after too many shitty shark movies, and the title creature looks impressive when we see it. The film’s major gore gag, and the reason for its “R” rating, looks good. However, a scene where Audrey finds herself swimming among assorted body parts was done much better nearly forty years ago in Argento’s Phenomena.

Sadly The Black Demon ends up being another disappointment. It fails as a horror movie and as an eco-thriller. Even the ending lacks the visual punch I expected it to have and is a distastefully cynical exercise in false nobility. It’s not as bad as Cocaine Shark or The Requin, but it could have been better and blew the chance which may be worse.

The Black Demon is available on Digital Platforms via The Avenue. It will be available on DVD on July 11th. If you’re looking for something similar but hopefully better, FilmTagger can suggest a few films.

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Where to watch The Black Demon
Our Score

7 thoughts on “The Black Demon (2023) Review”

  1. This movie is so lame that is was so disappointing. The action was the main mission part ymthe monster never shows up only 3 times 🙁 the script horrible!!! The actors don’t know what was the main problem!!!??? Helooow!!! Worst movie ever

  2. The worst piece of garbage I’ve ever seen. It was just over an hour and a half but felt like eternity. Horrible dialog and terrible acting.

  3. I would have liked it better but the extra loud sound effects hurt my ears!!!

  4. What a complete disaster!!!!
    Shark tornado is 10 times beter.
    And that says a lot 🤣

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