September 24, 2023



“The low-budget film ‘The Black Demon’ surpasses ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ and ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ to claim a spot in Amazon’s Top 10.”

“The low-budget film ‘The Black Demon’ surpasses ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ and ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ to claim a spot in Amazon’s Top 10.”

The indie movie, predominantly involving Latino talent both on and off-screen, had minimal marketing upon release but is now sparking discussions about a sequel.
Label it as Tlaloc’s vengeance. Amidst the buzz surrounding the second season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” or the feature film “Red, White & Royal Blue,” another Amazon title has quietly dominated the streaming service’s top 10.
“The Black Demon,” a supernatural shark movie with a Latino twist, has held the number one position on Amazon’s streaming charts for a continuous seven days since its debut on August 22. It has outperformed not only these Amazon hits but also big studio releases like Universal’s “Cocaine Bear” and Paramount’s “Dungeons & Dragons,” both of which also maintain a spot in the daily top 10 most-watched entries on the platform in the U.S.
This is an impressive achievement, especially considering that the film was made for less than $10 million and had limited marketing. However, without specific viewing numbers, it’s challenging to gauge the extent of the thriller’s success. Unlike Netflix, Amazon doesn’t disclose the total minutes viewed for its top 10 movies. Nevertheless, “Demon” holding the top spot underscores the potency of Latino narratives, which, when presented effectively, can resonate with a broad and eager audience.
Javier Chapa, one of the producers of “Demon” and the founder of Mucho Mas Media, notes, “No one has ever witnessed a shark movie in this genre with a Latino perspective.” He explains that their company’s mission is centered on supporting people of color both in front of and behind the camera while addressing an underserved demand in their community.
The film blends various subgenres, telling the story of a family trapped on an oil rig struggling to survive a massive shark, potentially linked to the Aztec god Tlaloc. It features shark attacks, family drama, a faith-based element, Aztec culture, and a strong Latino flavor.
Javier Chapa, married to Legendary Entertainment vice chairman Mary Parent, collaborated with producer Jon Silk, known for his expertise in genres and comics, to develop the concept. They refined the script by Carlos Cisco and Boise Esquerra (Cisco received story-by credit, while Esquerra was credited for the screenplay). Director Adrian Grunberg, originally from Mexico and known for directing Mel Gibson in “Get the Gringo” and Sylvester Stallone in “Rambo: Last Blood,” came on board after a deal with director Gerardo Naranjo (known for “Miss Bala”) fell through.
The film secured its financing in a typical indie film fashion, with a whopping 17 executive producers. It made its debut at the Cannes Film Market in March 2021 through the Highland Film Group. A few months later, Amazon acquired distribution rights for North America and Latin America.
Jon Silk, who produced under his banner, Silk Mass, notes, “In the world of financing presales if you have a shark movie directed by the director of a Rambo film, you’re going to stand out.”
Production commenced in November of that year in the Dominican Republic, with Josh Lucas as the prominent star. Fernanda Urrejola, Venus Ariel, and Julia Cesar Cedillo completed the primary cast. The production settled at Pinewood Studios in the Dominican Republic, making good use of a large water tank and constructing a two-and-a-half-story oil rig set for the actors to navigate (VFX extended the platform). Shooting with children limited the daily shooting hours, and a COVID outbreak resulted in a temporary shutdown, impacting the budget and prompting reductions in the visual effects budget.
Javier Chapa comments on the challenges, stating, “Water, kids, and COVID – we faced some tough times. But I think these are the rewarding times, to witness the audience’s response and to see the film at the top of the charts. These are the rewards of our hard work.”
Highland released the movie theatrically through its subsidiary, The Avenue, on just over 500 screens in the spring in the United States and some international regions, with a limited promotional budget aimed at reaching a digital audience. The film later became available through Paramount Home Entertainment as a hard copy sell-through before becoming accessible on Amazon a week ago.
With only one recognizable star and without billboards, TV advertisements, or a flashy soundtrack, “Demon” jumped to the top spot and has largely held its position, much to the astonishment of its creators. (As of Wednesday afternoon, it slipped to third place, behind “Summer I Turned Pretty” and the Woody Harrelson comedy “Champions.”)
Jon Silk, reflecting on the other titles in the top 10, remarks, “These are projects with significant resources behind them. It’s truly special to witness this film capturing people’s attention in this way.”
Latino audiences tend to be avid moviegoers but are notably underrepresented on the screen. Although they make up 19 percent of the U.S. population, a 2023 study by the Latino Donor Collaborative found that in 2022, they held only 5.1 percent of lead roles in films and 4.5 percent of co-lead roles in ensembles.
The film’s success appears to energize Javier Chapa. He states, “It’s shocking to me that the Latino community doesn’t receive more support in the film industry. They are among the most enthusiastic moviegoers, more so than any other group. To me, the million-dollar question is: Why aren’t more people creating movies that are universally appealing yet made by and for that community?”
The answer to that question might be on the horizon, possibly in the form of a sequel. While negotiations might be complicated by the ongoing strikes involving writers and actors, the producers suggest that discussions about a follow-up are taking place.
Chapa views the film’s success as evidence of a societal demand for movies like this in his community. “Demon” is something he aims to build upon.
“I didn’t come up with this phrase, but what we require are films that possess a ‘Latino essence and worldwide appeal,'” he remarks.

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Ralph Calaway