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The Last Voyage of the Demeter recounts the tale of Dracula’s journey to England on the infamous ship from the novel Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Specifically, the script takes the ideas from the chapter “Captain’s Log” and expands the narrative. Early in the film, the potential is noticeable for this Dracula encounter to have an Alien-inspired story (something like Master and Commander) but with the same Xenomorph-style approach. 

Instead of Alien, the vampire film has more in common with one of its lesser sequels. There are some decent ideas here, but for the most part, The Last Voyage of the Demeter made some frustrating choices. 

The Last Voyage of the Demeter’s story

The movie, directed by André Øvredal, focuses on a team of sailors transporting private goods from Romania to London. It begins with a scene in the future where a group of officers find the empty ship floating near the coast of England. The Demeter appears battered and damaged, with no apparent survivors in sight (or are there?). They come across the Captain’s Log, and his voice (played by Liam Cunningham) speaks over the images. He cautions the reader about the danger lurking inside the Demeter.

The film switches back to the start of the voyage, where we meet the main character Clemens (played by Corey Hawkins). He is a medical expert and science enthusiast who brings his expertise to the Demeter ship. The vessel is home to a diverse cast of characters, including some familiar faces. 

David Dastmalchian (known for his breakout performance as Polkadot Man in The Suicide Squad) portrays Wojchek, the ship’s first mate who could potentially replace the Captain. Woody Norman plays the Captain’s grandson, Toby, and Jon Jon Briones plays Joseph, the film’s most intelligent and profoundly religious chef. Lastly, Stefan Kapicic portrays Olgaren as the most intimidating crew member. The remaining characters are mostly unremarkable and simply waiting to be sacrificed.

As they prepare for sail, a box with a dragon symbol spooks one of the crewmembers and he warns it’s a bad omen before departing the ship. As seen in the advertisement, the box contains a stowaway, And it begins feeding on the crew nightly.

Javier "Javi" Botet as Dracula
Javier “Javi” Botet as Dracula (Universal)

The creature design and tone

The film has an old-style aesthetic that is worth appreciating. The Last Voyage of the Demeter is gothic horror of the classic variety. Visually it’s heavily inspired by Hammer films. Classic horror films that play with shadows and lighting. If Universal were to take another stab at a Monster-verse, this should be the chosen aesthetic. 

Adding to this, The Last Voyage of the Demeter takes inspiration from Nosferatu with its creature design. The gray skin, shriveling and bald-like appearance, with the needlepoint long fangs, is a nightmare-inducing vision of Dracula. The creators behind the movie make the character unsettling by having his walk, posture, and movements more extraterrestrial. It might be the most fearsome representation of vampires since 30 Days of Night. But here is where our issues with the film begin.

Demeter is more Prometheus than Alien

Many people defend Prometheus, and it’s okay to love the film. The prequel, directed by Ridley Scott, has some awe-inspiring moments but also features some of the most foolish space travelers ever seen. What sets the first two Alien movies apart is their relatable and intelligent characters. The protagonists make decisions that make sense, which makes the audience feel the stakes and reality of the situation. In contrast, Prometheus has a scene where a scientist impulsively removes their helmet on an unfamiliar planet.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter encounters similar problems where, once the vampire chaos begins and the crewmembers realize something is killing them, they tend to run into empty rooms alone instead of sticking together. They also follow risky noises like a moth to a flame.

Corey Hawkins as Clemens in 'The Last Voyage of the Demeter'
Corey Hawkins as Clemens in ‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ (Universal)

[Warning: This section contains minor spoilers. If you want to experience the movie without prior knowledge, skip to the next part.] In a lengthy scene, the characters seek to locate Dracula’s resting spot. After they find it, one of them comments, “At least we know where it sleeps.” However, the box they discover is never revisited, and the story no longer addresses this incident. This raises the question: why was this subplot included in the first place?

In another scene, a character is trapped in a room while a threat attempts to break in. After the loud banging on the door stops, the character has a moment of genius. The character slowly and dramatically approaches the door and presses their ear against it. It’s unrealistic for anyone to act this nonsensically in a dangerous situation, regardless of their age. Such behavior removes the suspense from the scene when the characters appear to be actively seeking death. This leads us to the jump scares.

Predictable jump scares

The Last Voyage of the Demeter has one of the most frustrating choices regarding scaring audiences. Instead of letting the narrative build tension more organically, the film utilizes the frustrating practice of muting the score during a suspenseful moment; then, in a countdown of 1, 2, and 3, the monster appears in view, following thunderous music to jolt the audience. It’s an easy trick, and most Hollywood uses this practice as a placeholder for genuine suspense.

But several moments in the movie utilize this method as a crutch instead of exercising it more sparingly. And this reviewer wants to make clear director André Øvredal is a talent beyond measure. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a magnificent horror film, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a brilliant adaptation of the horror novels. This is one of the few films that feels like a misfire. That said, Øvredal’s movie might have made it across the ocean with one more script revision.  

The Last Voyage of the Demeter sinks short of potential

Horror fans are sure to enjoy the Dracula design in the movie. It offers plenty of fun vampire kills for those seeking them. However, The Last Voyage of the Demeter falls short of resurrecting the vampire genre. Despite glimpses of a great horror movie, the characters’ readiness to become food and lack of suspense are baffling. Nevertheless, this reviewer eagerly anticipates André Øvredal’s future works.

My rating for this film

★★/ ♥♥½

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is now in theaters . Are you going to see it this weekend? Let us know on social media or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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John Dotson

Born and raised in Texas, John Dotson has been a film pundit for over 10 years, writing reviews and entertainment coverage at various online outlets. His favorite thing in the world is discussing movies with others who also love the art form.

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