Film Review: The Last Voyage of the Demeter
The Last Voyage of the Demeter
Director: André Øvredal
In Theaters 8.11
Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula and its variations have been a staple of the horror genre for just over 100 years, and at this point it’s challenging to do anything new with the concept. While The Last Voyage of the Demeter is essentially just Alien at sea, the film does manage to put a little fresh blood into the story.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter, which is based on the chapter titled “The Captain’s Log” in Stoker’s novel, tells the tale of the merchant ship Demeter, chartered to carry a private cargo of 50 unmarked wooden crates from Carpathia to London with the promise of a hefty bonus if the ship makes it to port on schedule. This prompts men to line up to gain a post on the Demeter, including Clemons (Corey Hawkins, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Kong: Skull Island), a doctor looking to get back to London. Once the voyage is underway, unsettling events begin happening. Discovered in one the crates is a stowaway, a young woman named Anne (Aisling Franciosi, Home, The Nightingale) who warns of a great evil on board. The crew is stalked each night by something—or someone. As the crew are picked off one by one, Clemons, Anna and the others must prepare to make a last stand before the ship reaches port.
Øvredal (Troll Hunter, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) has a strong hand with horror and sets the gothic atmosphere nicely, building tension and offering a number of memorable scares. Still, it’s a bit difficult to get fully immersed in the sense of mystery over what the crew is facing when both the advertising and even the opening crawl make it so clear that this is a version of Dracula, and as such the enemy’s nature, motivation and identity are clear from the word “go.” The film’s strongest element is Dracula being in true monster form as a terrifying creature rather than a man. It’s unfortunate we see a bit too much of the vampire early on, and the scariest moments come when he’s more of a suggested presence. Still, there are some truly scary moments, and it works on a horror level, though the body count reaches a point where it starts to feel pointless to become invested in anyone’s survival.
I’m going to issue a spoiler warning here, because it’s impossible for me to review the film without stating that the choice to kill the most lovable and vulnerable character two thirds of the way into the film really sucked the fun out of the final section. It seriously hurt my enthusiasm for the film.
The cast is strong, with Hawkins sinking his teeth into the opportunity to play the lead in a blockbuster, and Franciosi shines as the most interesting character. Woody Norman (C’mon C’mon) is quite endearing as Toby, the plucky and vulnerable cabin boy, and the relationship between him and the Captain (Liam Cunningham, Game of Thrones) is touching. David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man, Oppenheimer) is a strong presence as the first mate, Wojchek, and Javier Botet (The Conjuring 2) makes an impression in motion capture and makeup–laden performance as Dracula.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is an entertaining, gothic-horror thriller that flirts with greatness only to fall short. A bit more emphasis on the Jaws-style “what you can’t see is scarier than what you can” school of filmmaking, along with some script tweaking, could have resulted in a true classic, and because all of the right elements are in place, the shortcomings are rather frustrating. Still, it’s as a serviceable version of the classic story that vampire fans will bite into with glee. –Patrick Gibbs
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