Movie Review: The Last Voyage of the Demeter

A monstrous Dracula preys on a doomed ship in “The Last Voyage of the Demeter,” an adventurous take on the classic novel.


Few characters (in the public domain, anyway) are as recognizable and versatile as Count Dracula, the archetypal vampire that gave rise to an entire horror subgenre. We’ve already seen the suave-yet-sinister villain once this year, delightfully embodied by Nicolas Cage in “Renfield,” and the character is back already in the macabre marine tragedy “The Last Voyage of the Demeter.”

This Dracula is a far cry from smooth-talking Nic Cage. Here, he’s more monster than man, a mannish bat lurking in the shadows of the titular ship, a creaky wooden vessel that makes for a perfect setting.

Most “Dracula” adaptations, including the iconic original, glaze over the details of the count’s journey to England; usually, he’s in the castle, then suddenly he’s lurking around London. In Bram Stoker’s novel, however, this is a thrilling part of the tale. A derelict ship washes up on a rocky shore with no crew to be found; a captain’s log shares the bizarre tale of their journey.

“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is mostly faithful to the source material, aside from giving more depth to the doomed sailors. Clemens (Corey Hawkins), a doctor seeking passage back to England, is a disillusioned wanderer; he discovers an ailing stowaway (Aisling Franciosi) belowdecks, who turns out to be covered in bite marks. Meanwhile, the Demeter’s captain (Liam Cunningham) is taking his precocious grandson (Woody Norman) on what is to be one final crossing before handing the ship over to his first mate (David Dastmalchian).

If the strokes of character development are broad, it’s a forgivable shorthand en route to the desperate survival-horror that ensues. The attacks start slowly, then escalate rapidly once the ship is beyond quick reach of any port; the turn from “something may be wrong here” to “none of us may reach England alive” is swift and brutal.

Undoubtedly, it’s a dark and desperate tale; unlike many vampire films, there’s no whimsy and certainly no romance here. Instead, there’s a lovely, sad sense of adventure, as the beautiful sunsets and swashbuckling setting is flipped into a house of horrors.

“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” will likely be criticized for the look of its villain, a somewhat digital Dracula, but I found that flaw forgivable in the face of a fun yet daring chiller. There’s a reason why Dracula is, by some measure, the most adapted character in history: It’s very easy to build a compelling story around him.

My Rating: 7/10

“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is now playing in theaters.

Categories: Sean Collier’s Popcorn for Dinner