The latest from André Øvredal takes inspiration from “The Captain’s Log” section of the 1897 Dracula novel.
Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal has more than made his mark in the horror genre, having helmed high-profile projects like 2010’s infamous Trollhunter, 2016’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and the 2019 adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Handing this guy the reins to a classic movie monster, specifically the world’s most famous vampire, was a no-brainer.
Which leads us to The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a somewhat refreshing take on the century-old tale of Count Dracula. Øvredal, along with writers Bragi Schut Jr. and Zac Olkewicz, has honed in on a singular chapter of Bram Stoker’s original novel and turned it into what is essentially a monster / slasher movie on a boat. There’s not much in the way of substance here, but what you do get is a surprisingly gory and dread-inducing horror flick that doesn’t pull punches; fun, but a bit fleeting.
Based on “The Captain’s Log” section of the 1897 Dracula novel, The Last Voyage of the Demeter keeps its plot nice and simple. Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham), his first mate Wojchek (David Dastmalchian), and the rest of the crew of the Demeter have been tasked with taking some precious cargo from Transylvania to London. Among the many containers is none other than Dracula himself, who begins preying on the unsuspecting livestock (both human and animal) and throws the ship into increasing chaos.
Where Øvredal and his team succeed the most is in the film’s atmosphere. We know that this is a doomed journey for pretty much the entire cast, and the overall feeling is exactly that – pure doom and gloom. As portrayed by famed creature actor Javier Botet, this version of Dracula is far more hungry Nosferatu than anything else; a wordless, snarling, hungry monster that rips its victims apart rather than seductively suck on their necks. It makes for some serious seafaring carnage.
As far as an actual story goes, a last minute addition to the Demeter’s crew, Doctor Clemens (Corey Hawkins), proves to be decent in the fields of both medicine and vampire defense, and a mysterious stowaway named Anna (Aisling Franciosi), just may hold important information regarding Dracula himself. Both of these characters are important, and both are played by exceptionally talented actors, but neither are able to make very much of an impact on how events actually play out.
Maybe part of this movie’s problem is that you pretty much know how it’ll end, and no matter how engaging or important any of these characters may seem, you know they’re either just eventual food for the monstrous onboard vamp or a traumatized spectator to it all. Still, it’s nice to see a monster movie in a very pure sense like the way The Last Voyage of the Demeter is – gruesome, violent in a winking sense, and best of all, no one is safe, not even adorable pets or children.
There’s a brief novelty to the bloody spectacle that Øvredal’s latest provides and an admirably morbid approach to the entire affair, but this supposed final voyage feels considerably thin by its end. A comically misguided attempt at setting up some future sequels in the film’s last moments changes the mood entirely, feeling like some mismatched leftover from the DOA “Dark Universe” that was attempted a few years ago. A pure gooey horror movie suddenly winds up being a bizarre kickoff to some Van Helsing-esque superhero nonsense that we know will never happen. Probably for the best.
‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ is currently playing in theaters.