The Last Voyage of the Demeter
by Hope Madden
I give people credit for finding new ways to tell the Dracula story. And I’m always up for whatever director André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) wants to show me. So, I was in for The Last Voyage of the Demeter, even though the trailer didn’t do that much for me.
If you’re familiar with the Dracula story, the Demeter was the derelict ship bound from Varna found outside London, nothing left but a dead captain who’d lashed himself to the wheel, and his fateful captain’s log.
Øvredal’s film, written by Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Samaritan) and Zak Olkewicz (Bullet Train, Lights Out) from a handful of Bram Stoker’s pages, confines itself almost exclusively to that watery passage. So, the writers have their work cut out for them, since we know the shape the ship’s in when it hits England.
First things first. Let’s get acquainted with the crew. Can’t connect to a scary story unless you’re invested in those trapped on the high seas with a bloodthirsty monster. Corey Hawkins (The Tragedy of Macbeth) is Clemens. He’s a man of science, so has no patience with the inevitable “devil on board” nonsense.
David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad) plays against type as the one guy who is not weird, the second in command after Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham, elegantly authoritative as ever). His grandson Toby (Woody Norman, C’mon C’mon and Cobweb) brightens and tenderizes the crew.
Most importantly, Javier Botet plays Dracula. The 6’7” actor (and he can act – please see Amigo for proof of that) brings tremendous presence to the beastly creature rationing crew until he can get to the smorgasbord that is London. The monster looks pretty good, too – kind of a cross between Neil Marshall’s crawlers (The Descent) and Tobe Hooper’s Mr. Barlow (Salem’s Lot).
Øvredal’s camera lurks and leers around corners, from above, through rigging, creating a constant unease while offering great visual variety, given the limited location options. Performances are strong, FX are solid, and there’s a mean streak to the carnage you may not see coming.
But the writing is not The Demeter’s strength. The plot does nothing intriguing, the story offers nothing new nor does it do anything to deepen or enrich the Dracula legend. The inevitability of the story doesn’t help, nor does the full 2-hour run time.
Turns out there may be a reason no one’s told this part of the story before. There’s just not that much to say.