What’s he doing here?: Josh Lucas takes on a giant shark in ‘The Black Demon’.
THE BLACK DEMON * (101 minutes) M
A friendly piece of advice to anyone stuck with their family on a derelict oil rig being menaced by a monster shark – keep an eye on the kids.
It’s not just that precious moment of glaring parental neglect that makes The Black Demon such a dismal, laughably bad entry in the animal-vs-people genre. It’s the painful acting, the terrible dialogue and the silly inconsistencies.
Why, for instance, are there all these well-preserved body parts floating around the rig when the submarine-sized shark can eat a boat and its crew whole?
And how is Josh Lucas the lead in this dreck? He’s given us such good service in everything from Ford v Ferrari to Red Dog to Yellowstone (very good stuff), so what he’s doing here? He puts in a dreadful performance. Why, Josh, why?
He plays a Big Oil employee who is tasked with decommissioning an old rig in the sea off Mexico. (The film was actually shot in the Dominican Republic.) He’s brought his Mexican wife (Fernanda Urrejola) and two kids (Carlos Solorzano & Venus Ariel) along hoping to staple a family vacation on to the trip, presumably so he can claim all extraneous costs as expenses.
Heading off to the rig he is promptly followed by his family after they are roughed up by local thugs. His response to seeing them arrive is one of the film’s highlights.
Myth and mystery surrounds the giant shark that, legend had it, only appears when “summoned”.
So, of course, this ain’t a straight-forward fish-vs-humans thriller like, say, Jaws or The Shallows or Deep Blue Sea or The Meg. Oh, it’s much deeper than that.
The shark is a symbol of retribution, you see, here to exact revenge for all the environmental damage humans have inflicted upon the earth, with oil company corruption being largely responsible for the pickle these particular humans find themselves in.
Just to punch the point, the company is called Nixon Oil. You know, Nixon, as in Richard Nixon, the US president who did the Watergate thing? Get it? See the link?
And you see it coming, folks, that big confrontation scene that dares raise the thorny question as to who the real monster is. The giant shark circling the rig? Or the people on the rig?
It’s an echo of what Ripley says in Aliens when she asks the corrupt guy from corporate which species is worse, because “You don’t see them f***ing each other over for a goddam percentage”. (Any excuse to quote that classic line again. Only it’s doubtful anyone will be quoting this film 37 years from now.)
The film is green enough – especially the murky underwater scenes – without all the clumsy enviro-messaging. Abusing nature is bad. We get it. We’ve been getting it since Bambi. Aren’t we a bit sick of this, where everything has to have a lefty spin on it?
The film is woefully directed by Adrian Grünberg, who has made two OK features prior to this D-grader: the nihilistic, hyper-violent Rambo Last Blood in 2019; and the Mel Gibson prison film Get the Gringo in 2012. Here’s hoping he tucks this turkey away and moves on to further triumphs.
As it is, The Black Demon clocks in as an awful monster flick where you find yourself wishing the beast would chow through the cast as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The film is screening at a few cinemas (Epping; Craigieburn – neither easy to get to!) but from Wednesday 21 June it’ll be all yours via Amazon, Fetch, Apple, YouTube, Microsoft, Telstra and Foxtel to buy (no!) or rent (still no!).
The Black Demon might be good for a bad-movie night laugh, but wait till it’s free on your streamer. That’s more friendly advice. You read it here first.