Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Black Demon

It's a shark, it’s a megalodon, it’s an Aztec god—and a structural engineering inspector. It’s the god, Tlaloc and he is really ticked off. Fortunately, he mostly swims around a soon-to-be decommissioned petroleum platform, which should be easy to avoid, but that is exactly where Paul Sturges and his family go in Adrian Grunberg’s The Black Demon, opening this Friday, only in theaters.

Sturges always enjoyed inspecting this platform, because the town that services it is so quaint and welcoming. He doesn’t even bother making a reservation at his hotel, because planning ahead is for squares. Much to his surprise, he finds the town practically shuttered. The locals who remain are creepy bad-touching rustics. One of them even starts pawing his wife, Ines, who coldcocks him in response. That is why she commandeers a boat to follow her negligent husband out to the oil platform.

Unfortunately, as Sturges already discovered, she finds the platform under siege from a massive prehistoric shark. She and the kids barely make it on to the platform. To get back to the mainland, they need a bigger, more shark-proof boat. Unfortunately, coms are out and even if they weren’t, the villagers are so disgusted with the environmental damage wrought by the platform, they wouldn’t be much inclined to help. In fact, that is why the rag-tag platform survivors believe Tlaloc is terrorizing them. He has judged the rig’s environmental controls and found them lacking.

Maybe when the development process started on
Black Demon the oil rig setting looked like a fresh hook for a shark attack movie. However, in the last sixteen months, Prime’s The Rig, Globo’s Ilha de Ferro, and The Burning Sea have made petroleum platforms a whole lot more familiar. Screenwriters Carlos Cisco and Boise Esquerra also try to introduce elements of New Agey Aztec spirituality, but their corniness is embarrassing.

Josh Lucas and his Ken Burns-narrating voice look and sound rather uninspired as Sturges. Fernanda Urrejola is a bit more lifelike as his poor wife, but Julio Cesar Cedillo really anchors the film as Chato, the grizzled maintenance-guy rig survivor. The Sturges also have some kids too, but just try to tune out their whining.

Black Demon
is kind of dumb, especially when it takes itself too seriously. This is a giant shark movie. Don’t try to save the planet. Just settle for suspending our disbelief, ever so slightly. Alas, that just doesn’t happen. Not recommended, The Black Demon opens this Friday (4/28) in New York at the AMC Empire.