The Last Voyage of the Demeter Review

The Last Voyage of the Demeter Review

Drac’s on a boat and, he’s drinkin’ blood and…

Matt Donato


Aug 10, 2023 4:29 pm


Aug 10, 2023 4:00 pm

From a handful of pages by Bram Stoker comes The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a moody hunt-and-kill chronicle of Count Dracula’s passage from Transylvania to England. Director André Øvredal expands upon a single chapter in Stoker’s pioneering novel to imagine how its titular vampire fed his hunger at sea. Journal entries about missing crewmen are translated into a rain-soaked nightmare of bad sailor’s luck, torn open necks, and waterlogged isolation that plays to Øvredal’s storytelling strengths. It’s a throwback to broody, Hammer-esque horrors with dread as thick as a fog over the moors, and while the journey isn’t quite fit for a nearly two-hour runtime, there’s still a bloody-good addition to Dracula lore found in the dimly lit decks and cargo hold of the Demeter.

Writers Bragi F. Schut, Stefan Ruzowitzky, and Zak Olkewicz introduce protagonists like Corey Hawkins’ Cambridge graduate Clemens or David Dastmalchian’s gruff and hard-nosed second mate Wojchek, helping us sympathize with characters who are otherwise faceless cannon fodder in the source material. From Liam Cunningham as Captain Eliot – a sympathetic leader making one last haul before retirement – to Aisling Franciosi as the mysterious stowaway Anna, Øvredal’s ensemble feels at home quivering under a doomy, gloomy moonlight, petrified by a gangly figure lurking in the shadows.

Famed creature actor Javier Botet (It, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Mama) brings “The Evil” (as Drac is referred to by his unwitting shipmates) to life in a form that recalls F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot miniseries. Demeter’s Dracula is a vile bloodsucker who begs audiences to cower in his presence. Bat-like features distance this vampire from the dreamy Brad Pitt and Robert Pattinson types, driving home the animalistic nature of Botet’s performance.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is sea-sickeningly claustrophobic.

The waters churn around the Demeter in a sign of continued distress, tossing the wooden vessel around as a reminder that it’d be a perilous place to be with or without the murderous addition to its manifest. Øvredal channels the Universal Monsters classics of the 20th century whenever lightning bolts illuminate scenes of prolonged dread, drawing fear from the hopelessness of being set adrift with one of horror’s heaviest hitters. Cunningham’s narration is stoic and resigned as spooked seamen fall to fang-gnashing demises each night, but the structure becomes repetitive. The Last Voyage of the Demeter is sea-sickeningly claustrophobic, but sustaining the crew’s paranoia for roughly 110 minutes is an uphill battle. The script stays true to Stoker down to the tiniest speck of cursed Transylvanian soil, and the performances are steeped in survival urgency, yet there are instances where the slow-burn torment needs to be reignited.

Maybe that’s because The Last Voyage of the Demeter has a set destination with an outcome that can’t be rearranged. Øvredal tells a tale that Stoker confined to punchy entries in a captain’s log, which makes the inevitability of slain galley cooks and skittish lookouts less gripping in a second act that withholds Dracula’s full potential. The introduction of an underage livestock handler attempts to heighten the stakes, and Clemens’ experiences with Victorian-era racism speak to societal monsters, but otherwise, Schut and Olkewicz stick to the predator-prey standards. Familiarity is the film’s friend more often than not, yet it briefly turns foe when the cast tries to generate suspense in scenes with an obvious answer: There’s a vampire on board the Demeter.

Computer animation steps in for practical craftsmanship that would look infinitely sharper.

There are other minor quibbles, like when computer animation steps in for practical craftsmanship that would look infinitely sharper, but nothing that’s a stake to Last Voyage of the Demeter’s heart. This movie adores being a horror time capsule that gives actors like Dastmalchian and Hawkins opportunities to pay homage to more theatrical genre films that relied on performance to supplement their visual trickery. Øvredal dusts off buried treasures of Old English verbiage and vampire mythology, and while excitement may lay in hiding for longer than hoped, the director unleashes his creature of the night in a way that would make Tod Browning proud.

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter should delight horror fans raised on Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and offers an R-rated bite of vampiric brutality for genre fans with a stronger bloodlust. Øvredal does well to transport his cast to a time when scary stories were told around lanterns in the dead of night, and even if the moodiness evaporates due to a protracted runtime and the foregone conclusion of Dracula’s landfall, the director accentuates the basics of violent feeding sessions in hair-raising fashion.

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The Last Voyage of the Demeter


The Last Voyage of the Demeter should delight horror fans raised on Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and offers an R-rated bite of vampiric brutality for genre fans with a stronger bloodlust.

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