It’s been a great summer for big budget studio movies, from the return of the Mission: Impossible franchise to the joint momentum of Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan’s respective blockbusters that brought us the Barbenheimer phenomenon. But 2023 is also shaping up to be a great year for horror, with M3GAN and Talk to Me telling entertaining original stories, and new chapters in the Evil Dead and Insidious sagas delivering bone-chilling scares.
And you don’t need to wait until spooky season for the next big horror release: The Last Voyage of the Demeter is sailing into theaters today.
A ship is, of course, an ideal location for a claustrophobic tale of suspense. This particular tale of terror-at-sea follows the crew of the merchant vessel Demeter—played by Corey Hawkins, Liam Cunningham, Aisling Franciosi and David Dastmalchian—on their journey from Transylvania to Whitby in Northern England. Along the way, the crew members and passengers soon realise that an evil presence has stowed away on board.
Does that premise sound at all familiar?
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is based on Dracula by Bram Stoker. (Kind of.)
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is the latest horror movie to draw inspiration from Bram Stoker’s immortal vampire novel. But similarly to last year’s The Invitation and this year’s Renfield, rather than being a straighforward adaptation of the book’s plot, Demeter cherry-picks just a few of the gory details to focus on. In this case, it is “The Captain’s Log.”
What is The Captain’s Log?
Dracula is an epistolary novel, meaning that its story unfolds via a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, and other fragments which together form a complete narrative. For instance, the story begins with Jonathan Harker’s written account of his arrival at Count Dracula’s castle in the Wallachian mountains.
The Captain’s Log is a series of journal entries which chronicle the Demeter‘s departure from Varna on July 6, 1893. Among its cargo were several boxes of earth, one of which—unbeknownst to the crew—contained the sleeping vampire. The captain’s descriptions of goings-on aboard the ship begin ordinarily enough, but within days of being at sea, the ship’s first mate disappeared, and before long the crew and passengers were being picked off one by one each night.
The captain’s log ends abruptly, and in the next section of the novel, we learn that the Demeter ran ashore in Whitby, with no survivors on board.
The Demeter’s doomed voyage is a relatively minor part of the novel as a whole, but Stoker’s use of the increasingly unnerved diary entries was an excellent way to build suspense. And barring the BBC’s 2020 miniseries, few recent adaptations have given much focus to the characters in that transitory chapter, making The Last Voyage of the Demeter a must-see movie for vampire fans. Even if we already know how it will end, it won’t make those night-time scenes up on deck any less tense.
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.