Synopsis: Stranded on a crumbling rig in Baja, a family faces off against a vengeful megalodon shark.
Stars: Josh Lucas, Fernanda Urrejola, Venus Ariel, Carlos Solórzano, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Raúl Méndez, Héctor Jiménez
Director: Adrian Grünberg
Running Length: 100 minutes
TMMM Score: (5.5/10)
Review: All together now: What genre does The MN Movie Man love above all else? The Big Shark Movie! And what genre constantly lets The MN Movie Man down above all else? The Big Shark Movie? Oh, the pity. Oh, the pain. Yes, I have been burned by many a bad shark movie over the years, which I have lamented in several reviews during my tenure here. I’ve never remotely thought that any would match up to my beloved JAWS, but you’d think that after all this time and all the technological advances, someone would be able to strike gold at some point, right? I mean…right?
Here’s what you came here for. Is The Black Demon any good? Yes, it’s not half bad, and the half that isn’t very good isn’t as bad as you fear it might be, and even so, it’s a heckuva lot better than the best worst dreck that’s been chumming streaming rentals ad nauseum. In that sense, The Black Demon is quite the breath of fresh salty sea air because there’s a sense there are more than a few people involved with the production that cared about making a movie that has value to its entertainment. It’s got its problems (mostly narrative; surprisingly, the effects are why I’d recommend it). Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that those who have scoffed at its comically askew plot might enjoy this mother-of-a-shark movie more than they initially thought.
A vague air of the supernatural haunts The Black Demon from the start, with the insinuation being that the locals in a tiny town near Baja, Mexico, have called for assistance from a mystical Megalodon shark which supposedly hunts near the Sea of Cortez. An oil rig from a smarmy corporation has killed the tourism industry and the profits for the town, and the people want revenge. So now a shark has crippled the rig and ensures no one comes or leaves.
Too bad no one told Paul Sturges (Josh Lucas, She Dies Tomorrow) that. Using a work trip (for the oil company he stumps for) to Baja to double as a family vacation, he brings his wife Ines (Fernanda Urrejola, Blue Miracle) and bickering children Audrey (Venus Ariel) and Tommy (Carlos Solórzano, Flamin’ Hot) along to see the tropical locale. He’ll do a little business quickly on the rig and then return to his family. When they arrive, they don’t get the warmest greeting and instantly feel that something is off – as if the boarded-up shops and glaring locals didn’t indicate that. No matter, Paul still needs to check some things out for his company, and then they’ll find a new location to enjoy their time together.
Of course, the entire family somehow winds up on the rig, along with two workers and a yappy Chihuahua. Obvious math will tell you who won’t be touching dry land again, and so we put our remaining 60 minutes into the hands of director Adrian Grünberg and ask that he is kind. And he is, mostly. While Carlos Cisco & Boise Esquerra’s script doesn’t go all the way with its supernatural angle (it could have gone even further and had more fun), Grünberg is a whiz at finding the right visuals to keep us hungry for more and not hangry for being kept waiting too long. The CGI of the shark is above average, and as long as it’s acting on its own, it’s often impressively menacing. Things can get wonky when the big guy (or gal, I don’t know them personally) gets up close and personal with other objects.
In the realm of The Big Shark Movie, The Black Demon rises high near the surface. Instead of allowing the movie to sink on the weight of its ludicrous premise and overzealous performances (I’m looking at you, Josh Lucas, wearing an ill-advised tank top), Grünberg has taken pains to jostle his film to a level of brisk entertainment not often found in this genre. It’s not the fastest swimmer in the bunch, but it gets a good bite occasionally.