Directed by: André Øvredal
Premise: Based on a chapter from Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. A cargo ship sails from Carpathia to England carrying a series of boxes. Members of the crew gradually turn up dead, leading the survivors to search for the culprit.
What Works: There have been literally hundreds of movies adapted from or inspired by Dracula. The Last Voyage of the Demeter finds a fresh approach to the material by expanding upon a section of Bram Stoker’s novel. The film has a great premise. A crew of a sailors are trapped at sea with a vampire on board and they have to figure out what’s going on and how to survive. The Last Voyage of the Demeter has a number of qualities in its favor, among them the careful regard for the characters. All of the central cast are distinct and well developed. The Last Voyage of the Demeter centers on Clemens, a Black British doctor in search of passage to his home country. The matter of race is delt with effectively. The movie acknowledges racial difference and the reality of prejudice but Clemens is more than his racial identity and the story does not overplay the issue. Also impressive are Liam Cunningham as the captain and Woody Norman as a cabin boy. The deaths aboard the Demeter hit the characters hard and the film’s willingness to explore grief amid the terror elevates the material and makes the characters empathetic and real. The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a classic vampire movie. There is no attempt to make Dracula sexy or sympathetic and there is a powerful malevolence to this version of the character. The filmmakers show good judgement in revealing Dracula. He’s introduced gradually and often obscured by shadow and mist and Dracula is given enough screentime without becoming overexposed. The film is extremely well shot. Much of it takes place in the dark but unlike some recent movies with dim lighting schemes, the image is always clear but creepy. We can readily make out the action and the movie has an effective atmosphere of dread that makes it very frightening.
What Doesn’t: Among the film’s innovations on the source material is the addition of Anna, a Carpathian woman who Dracula has stowed away as a source of food for the trip. Actor Aisling Franciosi does a fine job in the role but the film doesn’t give the character enough to do. She’s there to deliver exposition and occasionally participate in the action but Anna is mostly extraneous to the story.
Bottom Line: The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a well-crafted horror picture that brings a fresh approach to the Dracula story. It’s frightening but also possesses an emphasis on character that gives it dramatic gravitas.
Episode: #961 (August 20, 2023)