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The Last Voyage of the Demeter: Review

The Last Voyage of the Demeter ’s heavy atmosphere and dread can only carry the film through a small portion of the journey, leaving the rest dead in the water.

The Last Voyage of the De-mid-tier, more like.

…that might be the worst pun I’ve ever come up with for an intro.

Directed by thank-god-this-isn’t-a-video-and-I-don’t-have-to-pronounce-his-name André Øvredal, The Last Voyage of the Demeter is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. Interestingly, it only adapts a single chapter of said book, that being “The Captain’s Log.” It follows the crew of the titular ship Demeter, which left on a voyage to London and arrived a derelict wreck. Turns out one of the cargo it was carrying happened to be very sinister and very, very, hungry for blood.

I have to confess that I am more a movies guy than a literature guy, so I’ve never fully read the original novel. The main reason why I went and saw this film was because the premise of Among Us on a ship sounded cool. After watching, however, I grew curious and I checked out the chapter in question, and I can now say this: The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a very faithful adaptation of “The Captain’s Log” chapter, and that is to its detriment.

Now, for the first thirty minutes or so, it isn’t too bad. There’s a decent sense of atmosphere, it builds up tension by not showing too much of the monster, and when blood began to spill, the scares made me jump a little. The actors all give it their all, and they help sell the terror of being trapped in a limited space with something that only sees them as Caprisun packs. It is when the movie continues past the initial few scares that the cracks start to show.

See, the original chapter just mainly talked about the ship’s crew getting picked off one by one by Dracula. Which works fine for a brief section to build up tension for a larger story. But when you stretch that out into an entire movie, the repetitiveness of that structure suddenly comes across a lot more. The first time one of the crew was alone and had his arteries rearranged was cool. But then that same scene continues to play out over and over again until it has lost all impact and meaning.

loud and clear reviews The Last Voyage of the Demeter film movie 2023
Nosferatu (Javier Botet) and Clemens (Corey Hawkins) in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, directed by André Øvredal. (Universal Pictures)

It’s not like this issue was inevitable either. Otherwise, movies with similar bases, such as Alien or The Thing, wouldn’t be so beloved as horror classics. But those kept changing up the situation. The victims try to be more active and fight back or escape their current predicament. In The Last Voyage of the Demeter, however, even when it’s become very clear that simply staying put will get them very fatal hickies from Dracula, the film doesn’t put much emphasis on them actually trying to prevent the threat beyond just doubling the watch, making most of the scares feel one-note.

It doesn’t help that the characters are far too flat as well. Again, in the novel this wasn’t an issue, as with short logs, there didn’t need to be memorable characters. But now that said log is the focus of the entire movie, you now need actual concrete people to get invested in, otherwise it’s like trying to watch a Super Bowl game without knowing who any of the teams are.

The film tries something like that, bringing in Clemens (Corey Hawkins), a ship doctor who is implied to have struggled with racism, or Anna (Aisling Franciosi), a survivor of a village ravaged by Dracula. But their backstories are crammed into one or two scenes and are passed by too quickly. The side characters fare even worse, as I couldn’t tell one burly man with a beard from another.

At least the main monster, Dracula himself, was alright. On one hand, I think the initial buildup is good, and when he attacks, it was fairly entertaining. It’s also refreshing to see a Dracula that isn’t some sexy man that is more likely to attract fangirls rather than vampire hunters. This one is downright monstrous, and the design, while slightly dull-looking, is still intimidating.

However, the overall scares with him, while creepy, ultimately fail to leave a lasting impression. At this point, Bram Stoker’s Dracula is 126 years old. Since then, we’ve gotten countless adaptations or characters inspired off of Dracula, and also had multiple movies are people being trapped with some murderous being, ranging from supernatural to biological to mechanical.

Because of this, there is nothing we see in the movie that we haven’t already seen countless times before. I realize this isn’t necessarily the movie’s fault, and nothing is truly original nowadays. But there should still be something that can give the story its own identity: an iconic design, theme song, powers, cinematography, etc. Yet when the method of the scares also come down to basic jumpscares in the end, the film starts to feel as crusty and old as Dracula himself.

I wonder if adapting “The Captain’s Log” was a mistake in the first place. This isn’t a definite statement and I can certainly see arguments for the contrary, but that chapter worked because of its vagueness, as the specifics of what happened on the ship were mainly left for our imaginations. This often works well for horror, like if you feel a tickle down your back suddenly and cannot be sure whether it’s just a piece of lint or a spelunking spider. But by trying to elaborate, the movie may have lost that element of ambiguity.

In the end, The Last Voyage of the Demeter follows its source material to a fault. While the premise is gripping enough, it adds no significant plot development, characters, or even creative kills to elevate it beyond the original chapter. At the same time, it still explains too much to take advantage of the aforementioned ambiguity. It all makes for a very bland experience. The type of which can’t even make me muster up a clever ending for this review.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is out now globally in theaters.

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