Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Plot: A crew sailing from Carpathia to England find that they are carrying very dangerous cargo.
Review: There have been literally hundreds of stories told based around the most iconic vampire of them all, Dracula, but only a few of them ever explored the story of the ship and crew that was unlucky enough to call him its passenger, and even fewer that did this intriguing tale justice.
BBC’s Dracula made a solid run at it when they dedicated an entire episode to the doomed voyage (which I quite enjoyed, as well as the series as a whole) but where that version of the voyage shows a seductive and charming monster in disguise, The Last Voyage of the Demeter drops the disguise entirely. This vampire is a monster through and through and the crew of the Demeter is nothing more than a meal on wheels (or in this case, ship).
The voyage took place in the seventh chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and tells the story from the notes of the Captain’s log (heh). While the novel itself gives an intriguing but brief look into what happened horror director Andre Ovredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) beautifully expands on the nightmare of what it would be like to be trapped in the middle of the vast ocean with a predator.
Set in the 18th century the story starts with the Demeter about to sail to London from Transylvania. The crew are an eclectic, but likeable bunch made up of their stoic but kind Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) his precocious grandson Toby (Woody Norman), no-nonsense first mate Wojchek (the always awesome David Dastmalchian) and a slew of others.
Seeking out a few extra crewmates for the voyage they are joined by a young doctor eager to make his way back to London, Clemens (Corey Hawkins of The Walking Dead and Straight Outta Compton). The entire crew is especially excited for this journey as they have been promised a huge bonus if they make it to England quickly and deliver several large crates dropped off by a group of fearful Romani. But unbeknownst to anyone these crates aren’t all empty as one contains an alleged stowaway (Aisling Franciosi), and another contains Man-Bat. No, not the tragic DC comics figure, I’m talking a WHOLE other kind of bat-like creature and this one has no hangups about draining his victims dry.
Nineteen years I’ve been waiting for this movie to be made and for the most part it expertly delivers on this tale in a way that was genuinely suspenseful and surprising while still stay true to the Dracula mythos. I was surprised at how well they managed this considering the story itself is sort of a prequel, meaning everyone knows how this ends. But Overdal and his team of writers injected enough originality to keep audiences guessing.
Visually the movie also looks great as well. The use of natural light (or what appears to be natural lighting) means the Demeter contained lots of dark corners that would draw your eyes making you wonder if the monster was somewhere in the frame and putting you squarely in the shoes of his unfortunate would-be victims. The score by Bear McCreary evoked the classic Universal monster movies and the slow but purposeful pacing builds tension right up to the final climatic battle.
I also think the design choices for Dracula were perfect. It’s rare to see him depicted as the pure evil entity that he is and I’m positive some viewers would’ve preferred to see a more classic depiction. Personally, I’m a bit burnt out on that so seeing him like this was much more interesting and dare I say, frightening. Think a jacked-up version of Kurt Barlow from Salem’s Lot and you’ll have an idea of what to expect. Choosing to keep him in shadow for most of the runtime was also a smart choice as each time he was revealed his appearance would be a bit more “evolved” due to his feeding and therefore more shocking to behold.
I mentioned Salem’s Lot before, but the movie also plays out a bit like Jeeper’s Creepers with the way Dracula chose his victims. Add to that some truly gut-wrenching and grisly deaths, strong dramatic moments and a genuine sense of dread and it all adds up to an effective take on the classic tale. If there are any flaws with the movie it would be moments when it would fall prey to certain horror tropes like characters making stupid decisions that seem obvious to viewers. Yet these are also forgivable when you consider the time period and that these are not people who’ve ever heard of Dracula before.
The ending sets things up for a sequel which in the hands of a director as talented as Andre Overdal could mean an entertaining and original take on the rest of the story (maybe even a wholly different Van Helsing story). And The Last Voyage of the Demeter comes out on top as one of the better takes on the classic monster out there.
Score 7.5 out of 10
Have you checked out The Last Voyage of the Demeter? What did you think of it? And you can sink your teeth into more vampire film content below:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge-Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes. Double Tap Baby! Read More