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The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

The adaptation of a chapter in Bram Stoker's "Dracula" proves an effective horror film

Milking every last ounce of an IP is becoming a tiresome trend. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” has been done to death on the screen, most recently Renfield (2023) attempted to juice a side-character for an entire film in a comedically ambitious if flat story. Now, The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023) attempts to string an entire film out of a portion of a chapter in the famed gothic novel.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is only featured in a couple of spooky pages of Bram Stoker’s novel. In it we read the log of the sea Captain of the ship, the Demeter, as he recounts his trip from Transylvania to London, and how his crew seems to be disappearing one by one. In the film, we follow the Captain (Liam Cunningham) and the ship’s doctor (Corey Hawkins), as they attempt to discover what evil is plaguing the ship.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is directed by Andre Ovredal, an exciting horror director after delivering the satisfying The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019). Ovredal has been one of the few directors in horror that doesn’t use jump-scares as the only means of eliciting screams. Ovredal has always found it more effective to produce horror by showing cruelty in characters viewers have grown attached to. It is the patience in character building that makes ensuing deaths feel more impactful. This is one of the biggest strengths in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, and an intelligent way of extending the short chapter into a feature length film.

Ovredal has always been a director capable of making his films look much more expensive than they really are. It’s astounding that some $200 million budgeted films can feel so cheaply produced, and yet The Last Voyage of the Demeter at a “mere” $45 million, feels realistic and immersive. This is a testament to directorial and production skill, making intelligent choices of where resources are most important. The claustrophobic ship in The Last Voyage of the Demeter is expertly crafted and Dracula’s look, with practical make-up, becomes ever more present.

Ovredal gets together a talented cast of underappreciated actors. Hawkins is winning in the lead role, but Cunningham as the Captain is emotionally wrenching. Likewise, there are scene-stealing performances from the likes of David Dastmalchian as the First Mate, Aisling Franciosi as a stowaway, and Woody Norman as a young crew-hand.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter plays out as Alien (1979) on a Victorian-era ship; this was claimed as such by the producers. However, it is perhaps in this concept that The Last Voyage of he Demeter loses its way as a Dracula story. This film’s lead vampire is more of a monstrous entity than the cunning and cruel villain from the pages of the book. As such, The Last Voyage of the Demeter devolves into being any other claustrophobic haunting story, more similar to the likes of season one of The Terror (2018-2019) than Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931). A more balanced take between monster and man would have been welcome.

In the end, The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a carefully constructed and effective horror film. The strong performances hold the otherwise typical haunting plot aloft. The film would have benefitted from playing around and developing its villain, but all in all, The Last Voyage of the Demeter proves to be an impressive spin of a scant few pages of the book.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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