Set Sail on the Cruise You’ll Never Forget in The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)
Title: The Last Voyage of the Demeter
First Non-Festival Release: August 9, 2023 (Theatrical Release)
Director: Andre Øvredal
Writer: Bragi F. Schut, Zak Olkewicz, Bram Stoker
Runtime: 118 Minutes
Starring: Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, Javier Botet
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
“Dracula” is one of the most celebrated works of horror fiction and known to many beyond literary circles. The iconic monster has had its story told and reimagined many times since the dawn of cinema. The Last Voyage of the Demeter decides to adapt one singular chapter from Bram Stoker’s original novel to intimately tell a story that is briefly summarized that has potential to be more.
Clemens (Corey Hawkins) joins the ill-fated crew of the Demter, a ship headed from Bulgaria to England. Unbeknownst to anyone, the cargo they were paid handsomely to deliver on time could spell their certain death.
A vicious modern take on the seminal vampire story, Last Voyage of the Demeter emphasizes atmosphere and hopelessness.
The idea to take one chapter out of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and turn it into a feature film is an ambitious one, yet Last Voyage of the Demeter makes it work most of the time. The concept of Dracula on an isolated ship makes for a unique story considering the vampire subgenre has yet to explore the ocean to such degree. The reality is however enjoyable this idea is, The Last Voyage of Demeter turns into a standard creature feature. The vampiric action is more feral and ruthless than expected, given Dracula’s typical portrayal of dark sophistication, but it still works despite the initial disappointment. Gory, intense, and, most importantly, mean, The Last Voyage of the Demeter puts enough spin on its source material to make it breathlessly entertaining.
Pacing issues do take the wind out of the film’s sails as the concept gets stretched to its limits across its runtime. While laced with many unnerving and unsettling sequences, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tends to drag, especially in its second act. Without wanting to jump the gun, the script follows a pattern where Clemons is ignored by increasingly agitated crew members while the body count rises. It may be more of a necessary evil to more accurately reflect the source material but it makes for a clunky middle point regardless.
Strong performances and characterization make up for the feeling of predestination felt in the plot. It’s hard to nail down just one great performance in The Last Voyage of the Demeter since the cast is firing on all cylinders here. Corey Hawkins nails the leading male role of Clemens while Javier Botet channels a truly sinister energy as Dracula. Woody Norman imbues a sense of childlike adventure in Toby that feels both grounded and tragic. Liam Cunningham and David Dastmalachian get to play around with some compelling character development as the ship’s captain and first mate. Truthfully, the entire cast elevates the film beyond a standard monster film and makes it emotional trip too.
Each character is both purposeful to the story and authentic in their actions making the various character arcs enjoyable to watch. As the number of survivors dwindle and their situation becomes clearer, the various ways in which the crew act make for interesting character dynamics. Some are vindicated, others wretch in turmoil, while others work calmly to hatch a plan. The competing needs and approaches add dynamics to the story which otherwise would have fallen flat in the slower middle point of the journey.
Beautifully claustrophobic cinematography emphasizes the isolation and confinement these characters feel while maximizing the horror. Director Andre Øvredal knows how to craft a scene to play on the most elemental of human fears. When outside, Øvredal plays up the chilling emptiness of the sea, reminding the characters and audience of just how far away salvation is from them. With the elements already being dangerous enough, the knowledge that their ship can be destroyed from the inside too makes every moment feel treacherous. Inside, Øvredal plays up typical haunted house tricks to make the space feel tight and confined. There are no places to hide when there is time for Dracula to inspect every crevice for his next meal. This conflicting energy makes The Last Voyage of the Demeter an especially tense film even when it’s easy to remember how the story ends.
High concept horror helmed by a genre giant, The Last Voyage of the Demeter was destined to be a hit with horror lovers even if it doesn’t look like it is panning out well at the box office. Well-acted, produced, and imagined, this tale of high sea terror is a perfect piece of horror to watch during the chilly months of autumn later in the year. It does suffer from pacing issues but that doesn’t distract overall from the intentionality and creativity that went into this gloriously dark gem of mid-budget horror cinema. If you’re onboard for an atmospheric, throat slashing vampire film, The Last Voyage of the Demeter has you covered.
Overall Score? 7/10