Courtesy, Universal Pictures

Movie Review: The Last Voyage of the Demeter

07:00 August 15, 2023
By: David Vicari

There is an interesting concept behind the horror film The Last Voyage of the Demeter, in that it is loosely based on "The Captain's Log," the seventh chapter in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. So, it's a real shame that the movie ends up being just a collection of tired horror movie clichés.

The merchant ship Demeter is traveling from Transylvania to London. Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham), however, doesn't know that the ship is carrying a deadly cargo. Packed in a crate in the cargo hold is the vampire Count Dracula.

The main character here is Clemens (Corey Hawkins), a doctor who joins the crew of the Demeter when he saves the captain's grandson, Toby (Woody Norman), from a falling crate. No sooner has the voyage started that Clemens and crew notice strange things like a shadowy figure moving around the deck at night. Clemens then finds a young woman, Anna (Aisling Franciosi), in the cargo area who is presumed to be a stowaway. Then crew members start getting killed, as if they were attacked by a vicious animal.

The movie opens well, and the final half hour is fairly exciting, but the midsection of this full two-hour horror show is pretty sluggish. We get scene after scene of characters searching through the darkened bowels of the ship, and there are also fake out jump scares. Look, I will always admit if a movie gets a jump out of me, but none of the scares here worked at all.

The Dracula here is not at all inspired by Bela Lugosi from the classic 1931 movie, but rather the grotesque monster made famous by Max Schreck in 1922's silent classic Nosferatu. In Demeter, Dracula is played by Spanish actor Javier Botet, who is often cast as monsters, like in the REC films, Mama (2013) and Slender Man (2018). To me, and maybe I am wrong, but Demeter's vampire often seems like a digital effect, especially when he is performing some sort of action like jumping, growling or flying. Maybe Botet performed the motion capture for the character, but it looks like subpar digital work. Because it looked unconvincing, the creature never felt like much of a threat.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter has good performances, and the production design is impeccable, but the script, by Bragi Schut Jr. and Zak Olkewicz, lacks urgency and the direction by André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of jane Doe, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) is surprisingly flat.

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