Sunday, April 14, 2024

“THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER”

THE STORY – 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.

THE CAST – Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian, Woody Norman, Jon Jon Briones, Stefan Kapicic, Nikolai Nikolaeff & Javier Botet

THE TEAM – André Øvredal (Director), Bragi F. Schut & Zak Olkewicz (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 118 Minutes


“The Last Voyage of Demeter” has an undeniably exciting premise. It’s an adaptation of “Dracula,” but it’s based entirely on a single chapter from the legendary horror novel called “The Captain’s Log.” And that concept is about where the creativity in this film ends. This latest spin on the vampire story is a disappointingly dull journey that’s overlong, incomprehensibly edited, and laughably written. And no, it’s not scary.

The film tells the story of the doomed ship Demeter, headed by Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham), journeying from Romania to England with mysterious, unmarked cargo on board. One by one, as the crew members begin to be killed off by an unknown entity, it’s up to the most resourceful of those onboard, including a young doctor named Clemens (Corey Hawkins), to work together to defeat the bloodthirsty winged creature.

If nothing else, one might hope that a movie taking place on an old-timey ship with a severe vampire problem would at least have some fun scares or, perhaps, an enjoyably spooky atmosphere. But no, the film relies on cheap jump scares to try and make up for a severe lack of tension. The well-adorned sets are handsomely designed and provide a decent playground for the undead stowaway, but they’re so poorly filmed that the effort put into them feels wasted. Too often, the frame is shrouded in indiscernible darkness, making it unclear what we’re even looking at. And if that doesn’t make just seeing the film hard enough, most of its third act is buried under a thick layer of fog. It’s almost comically unpleasant to look at.

None of this is helped by the film’s editing, which is some of the worst I’ve seen in a major studio release in years. The film’s pacing is atrocious, stretching a simple story to nearly two pointless hours. On the other hand, when the film attempts to liven things up with a burst of action, it’s all so chopped up that it’s often impossible to tell what exactly is happening and to whom it’s happening.

Bizarrely, the film takes the most long-winded approach to telling its uncomplicated story. Most distractingly, characters will stop dead in their tracks to tell their shipmates about themselves and their struggles when it’s often least convenient. It’s hard not to wonder why these folks act with no sense of urgency when a literal monster lives in their ship’s hull. Even the undeniably talented Hawkins, Franciosi, and Cunningham can’t sell these leaden moments.

Hawkins plays the kind of science-minded character that horror movies often have around to act as a skeptic to all the obvious supernatural activity. Usually, this character isn’t the lead, as is the case here. Hawkins is sympathetic and clearly gifted, and the movie is lucky to have an actor of his caliber at its center. But still, beyond natural charm, Hawkins doesn’t bring much to the deck. Unfortunately, the supporting actors tasked with portraying the damned travelers accompanying Clemens are just as – pardon the phrase – lost at sea. Aisling Franciosi plays Anna, an unwilling stowaway whom Dracula intends to use as a food source for the voyage. It’s not Franciosi’s fault that she’s stuck with being the kind of one-dimensional badass female character that feels dated by several decades. Still, she also finds little to elevate Anna beyond her mold. David Dastmalchian is similarly burdened with an unenviably flat character as the first mate Wojchek. He’s talented enough to be compelling, but, like Franciosi, there’s simply not enough for him to work with. Thankfully, Liam Cunningham, who gave one of the best performances on “Game of Thrones” as Davos Seaworthy, is a welcome presence as Captain Eliot. Once things start to go sour on the ship, he shows the captain to be appropriately saddened and, eventually, crazed by the chaos happening on what was supposed to be his final sea journey.

Dracula is a character that’s been seen many times onscreen, often with original and unexpected designs. Unfortunately, he’s much less impressive here, resembling something of a lackluster cross between Gollum and a TV edit version of the monster from “Jeepers Creepers.” Matters aren’t helped by the way he’s shot. Clearly, André Øvredal tries to make the vampire appear more mysterious and foreboding by hiding him in the shadows and filming him from odd angles (something worked well with “Troll Hunters” on its slim budget but not here). But this only means it’s often difficult to know where to look for any form of excitement or thrills. It must be said that some of the gore effects from his brutal murders are admittedly enjoyable, acting as a bloody oasis in an otherwise dreary adventure.

“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” offers very little to either fans of the classic vampire story or casual filmgoers looking for a scary good time. Perhaps it’s appropriate that the film mirrors the most famous vampiric activity – it sucks.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Some of the gore effects are fun.

THE BAD - Overlong, with poor writing and horrendous editing. A disappointingly dull journey. And no, it's not scary.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 2/10

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Some of the gore effects are fun.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Overlong, with poor writing and horrendous editing. A disappointingly dull journey. And no, it's not scary.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>2/10<br><br>"THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER"