Universal Pictures and Dreamworks, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, is an American supernatural horror film directed by André Øvredal and written by Bragi F. Schut Jr. and Zak Olkewicz. The film is an adaptation of “The Captain’s Log,” a chapter from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. The plot follows the doomed crew of the merchant ship Demeter as they attempt to survive a treacherous ocean voyage while being stalked by a vampire, known only as Dracula.
Dracula’s Most Terrifying Chapter Comes to Life
“The Captain’s Log” is highly regarded and thought to be the most terrifying chapter of Dracula. The planning for this adaptation began nearly two decades ago and faced numerous challenges before finally coming to fruition. But the film is stunningly brought to life in this tight-spaced-isolated horror. The film’s set design and effects are amazing. The look and feel of the film fully immerse audiences into the tight corridors and sparse lighting of a ship at the end of the 1900s, without ever feeling needlessly dark or calustrphobic. And Dracula is a terrifying creature heavily akin to the Nosferatu look.
But despite its elite look, and wonderful performances, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” gets extremely close, but doesn’t quite make it to port.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is visually impressive in terms of set design, props, CGI. But there are some questionable decisions that just don’t work and snap audiences out of the moment. An establishing shot with the forced inclusion of some random character. A panning shot of a room that focuses on the ceiling instead of all the incredibly crafted set pieces. Obscuring the object that becomes the focus of the scene to the point it seems like it came out of nowhere. Just very random shot choices that distract from a movie that has true greatness in it.
Then there’s the pacing of the film. The Last Voyage of the Demeter has an R rating and completely squanders it. It seems as if it tried to be PG-13 and decided on the R later in the movie. This creates a very uneven experience that makes you realize the film is 2 hours long. It also messes with the horror aspect, and prevents it from being as terrifying as it obviously can be.
Lastly, there’s the combination of uneven pacing and odd choices when it comes to revealing Dracula. Dracula is a wonderfully horrifying being that we see way too much of. It’s hard to be scared of something you get used to. And while there is some visual storytelling done with Dracula, it woefully deflates the tension and horror of the film.
The film’s incredible look is accompanied by a great cast and an eerily epic score. Corey Hawkins masterfully leads the film and is gleefully the opposite of a common horror trope. Liam Cunnhingham provides the perfect gravitas as the Demeter’s captain and the film’s subtle heart. David Dastmalchian is the embodiment of a man who’s dedicated his life to the sea. And the rest of the cast also delivers admirably. Their strong performances, Bear McCreary’s score, and Schut Jr.’s adaptation of Brom Stroker’s tale do shine through the clouds. But it’d be understandable if you miss it.
And though my The Last Voyage of the Demeter was largely negative, the film is enjoyable because of the cast, the story, and the score. It is an incredibly immersive film, but its immersion is also what highlights the near misses to greatness. The world, the characters, and the look and feel of it all are extraordinary and would be a spectacular base to build the Universal Mosnterverse we keep hearing about. But the film is frustratingly so close to greatness without ever hitting the mark.
Next Time Aim for the Head
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is one of the best-looking horror films of recent memory. The production value creates a fully living world that is begging to be explored. It is brought to life with an amazing tale, a very strong cast, and an epic score. But despite all of that, it goes 2 hours without providing one scare. It is perfectly set up to have audiences spill their popcorn, but not a single kernel falls from a bag of full theater where popcorn was free.
For being so frustratingly close to killing it, but missing the jugular, I give The Last Voyage of the Demeter a 5/10.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter releases in theaters on August 11, 2023
About The Last Voyage of the Demeter
Release Date: August 11, 2023
Director: André Øvredal
Screenplay: Bragi Schut Jr., Zak Olkewicz
Story by: Bragi Schut Jr.
Based on “The Captain’s Log” from Dracula by Bram Stoker
Producers: Bradley J. Fischer, Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messner
Cinematography: Tom Stern
Edited: Patrick Larsgaard
Music: Bear McCreary
Production: DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Storyworks Productions, Studio Babelsberg, Phoenix Pictures, Wise Owl Media
Distribution: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 119 minutes
Cast: Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian
Based on a single chilling chapter from Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells the terrifying story of the merchant ship Demeter, which was chartered to carry private cargo—fifty unmarked wooden crates—from Carpathia to London.
Strange events befall the doomed crew as they attempt to survive the ocean voyage, stalked each night by a merciless presence onboard the ship. When the Demeter finally arrives off the shores of England, it is a charred, derelict wreck. There is no trace of the crew.
Do you already have your tickets for The Last Voyage of the Demeter? Do you think Dracula is scary or has his place in pop culture made him more of a supervillain? Do you think we’ll ever get the Universal Monsterverse? Let us know what you think on social media!