Dracula has seen some real highs and some real lows on the big screen. So, while there was definite potential in adapting just one chapter of the classic Bram Stoker novel Dracula into a film, it also was no sure thing. Alas, The Last Voyage of the Demeter belongs towards the bottom of the pile, offering up nothing interesting at all. There was always a chance that this movie would be bad, but hope sprung eternal that it would at least be fun bad, if so. That’s not the case, however, as it feels like the epitome of an August afterthought release. Frankly, this flick is escaping, more than it’s being released.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is an absolute slog, spending two hours on a thin and repetitive story. With only the barest bones of characterizations, a boring take on Dracula, and an ugly visual palate, you only have the occasionally gnarly kills to fall back on. The film admittedly doesn’t pull its punches or have sacred cows there, but it can only do so much. It clearly wants to offer more, whether as a throwback Hammer horror effort or a more emotional fright flick than most, but it falls very flat there. Simply put, the movie doesn’t work in the slightest, or at least, it didn’t for me. At all.
Adapted from a single chapter (the Captain’s Log) in Bram Stoker’s seminal 1897 novel, as mentioned above, this is a look at the doomed voyage of the Demeter. Traveling from Carpathia to London, the Russian schooner is chartered to carry some very private cargo, namely 24 unmarked wooden crates. Led by Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham), the crew includes Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) and some old hands, as well as the young Toby (Woody Norman), alongside the newly hired doctor Clemons (Corey Hawkins). They’re not alone on the ship, however, as they’ll come to learn.
Not only do they discover Anna (Aisling Franciosi) aboard, but something else is among them, murdering crew members at night. Anna eventually explains that it’s Dracula (Javier Botet), who has terrorized her village for years. If he makes it to London, he’ll have untold numbers to prey on. Of course, he’s got plenty on board the Demeter, in the meantime.
This cast tries their best, but the flick is giving them nothing to work with. Corey Hawkins carries himself like a genre hero, but the writing is so thin, you never dig in deep as to why you’re invested in his survival. He fares the best, too, as the likes of Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian, Aisling Franciosi, and Woody Norman get even less to do. As for Javier Botet, it’s a not altogether terrible design for Dracula, but it’s CGI as much as anything, limiting what he can offer. Supporting players here include Jon Jon Briones, Martin Furulund, Stefan Kapicic, Nikolai Nikolaeff, and Chris Walley, among others. No one survives without the cinematic blood drained from their performances.
Director André Øvredal has been a very steady horror filmmaker so far in his career, so this is a massive disappointment. Øvredal paces the film poorly, never invests you in the characters, and makes it all ugly to look at. Now, the screenplay is doing him absolutely no favors, as Bragi F. Schut and Zak Olkewicz have very little here beyond the initial premise, which they seem very pleased by. So, you get scene after scene of a single crew member on watch at night, knowing they’re just waiting to be butchered. It’s stupid characters to the nth degree. At a certain point in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, you just throw up your hands and stop caring. The movie lost me early on and never found a way to win me back. Plus, they opt to unnecessarily kill a dog, which is a surefire way to keep me out of your corner. That’s the least of this production’s problems, but it certainly didn’t help them any with yours truly.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is one of the worst films I’ve seen so far in 2023. I had an actively bad time with the movie and was incredibly let down. Your mileage may vary, of course, but for me, it outright sucked (I wanted to make a vampire pun, more so than be insulting, so just go with me here, folks). Dracula, despite his many crimes, still deserves better than this. Yuck.