Does The Last Voyage of the Demeter “suck?” No, it is mostly competent through two acts, but it does start to fall off the beam in the final third. One hopes this kind of thing could be avoided in a film that has two decades worth of development. That should be enough time to get a movie to work like clockwork. Or maybe that much time just causes overthink?
Regardless, let’s take a mostly spoiler-free look at The Last Voyage of the Demeter.
I Never Drink…Brine
The Last Voyage of the Demeter explores what happened to the ill-fated ship that brought the title character of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to England. The ship gets a short mention in the book. It is described as being run aground in Whitby, Yorkshire, with the captain lashed to the wheel and everyone onboard dead.
This creates a problem because people familiar with the source material know that everyone dies. It is not an insurmountable problem, however. Main characters could jump overboard.
The bigger problem is that we know Dracula reaches England, i.e. the villain wins. This sets the film-makers up for challenge when it comes to delivering a satisfying conclusion. A couple possible solutions exist. Maybe Dracula brought his brides along on the voyage. Then viewers can at least see some vampires getting bested. Or, maybe Dracula is weakened by traveling, and he has to cleverly manipulate things in his favor. He stays in the background, and the story plays out more like The Thing. Dracula gets people under his control, picks his spots, etc.
As it stands, The Last Voyage of Demeter opts for monster mayhem that runs parallel to characters trying to figure out there is a monster in their midst. Ultimately, the movie doesn’t squeeze all of the blood out of this choice. The Last Voyage of Demeter tries to exist more on the prestige side of the scale rather than the pulp side of the scale. If you are going to go the monster mayhem route, it is probably better to have a pulp esthetic.
I Vant To Suck Your Bilge
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is well thought out when it comes to setting up the situation. The trailer showed a kid and a girl along on the voyage, which is groan-inducing. Yet, the writer, Bragi Schut Jr., did a nice job of making their presence reasonable. Like, the kid is there because he is the grandson of the captain.
The main character is played by Corey Hawkins. He is a brother with a degree in medicine, looking for a way home. The way he gets on the Demeter is nothing earth-shattering, but it is logical. It is this logical approach to the story that makes one appreciate how naturally the movie flows up to a certain point. It is a believable scenario.
The characters themselves are also relatable and borderline refreshing in some ways. Case in point, when a girl is discovered on board, none of the sailors become rape-monsters. They don’t like her presence, but it doesn’t make anyone idiots. Likewise, the movie does little to make Hawkins’s race a notable issue. For the most part, he is simply a man trying to navigate an extraordinary situation.
The director, Andre Ovredal, keeps things moving reasonably well. Ovredal has fun movies to his credit: Trollhunter, Autopsy of Jane Doe, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Trollhunter and Autopsy of Jane Doe are superior to The Last Voyage of the Demeter, but this is because only so many places exist for Ovredal to go with the story. Basically, it boils down to:
“Dracula got to eat.”
At the end of the day, there is not much meat on that bone.
Batten” Down The Hatches
That brings us to Dracula himself. The Last Voyage of Demeter chooses to go with more of a Bat-Nosferatu look for the character. This doesn’t count as spoilers because the trailers and promotional materials reveal as much.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter did decent work with Dracula…initially. He came off as weak. That could have been an interesting track to take, where Dracula is driven by desperation rather than malevolence. Alas, the movie didn’t have that much nuance in the end. Dracula stays the same throughout the film. While he may look weak, he isn’t.
Dracula is essentially Jason Voorhees in The Last Voyage of Demeter. Occasional glimpses of intelligence are given, but it could have been played up more. None of this would have ruined a “less-is-more” approach because we know Dracula is an intelligent, cultured humanoid from the original novel and countless movies. A bit of sophistication coupled with the beastly appearance would have played out nicely, methinks.
Even so, the movie is not adverse to playing fast and loose with the “rules.” Crosses seem to have no effect on Dracula in The Last Voyage of Demeter. This makes no sense because the story is part of the official canon. Crosses affected Dracula once he got to England. Why not on the Demeter? The reason is never addressed.
Measuring by Demeter
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a fun idea. It’s a bulletproof concept, really. Rough men in an enclosed environment battling a monster is pure entertainment. Direction is adequate. Acting is adequate. Atmosphere is adequate. Story is adequate. That is The Last Voyage of the Demeter in a nutshell. Everything is delivered in an adequate way.
Unfortunately, nothing about the film bumps it above adequate. It doesn’t have a fun bone in its body, so it has no pop like a Lost Boys or a Fright Night. It also doesn’t have a gonzo quality to it like Coppola’s Dracula. Nor does it have the expressionistic gravity of Lugosi or the campiness of Christopher Lee. The vampire that is Hollywood sucked all personality out of The Last Voyage of the Demeter to deliver something that looks good on a spreadsheet (!$recognizable public-domain IP$!) but is only adequate onscreen.
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