“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is based on a novel, well, actually one chapter of a novel. It is based on the novel ‘Dracula’ written by Bram Stoker in 1897. The chapter is about a ship and the crew members who are hired to help with moving the Count from Transylvania to London. Things, as they say, do not go well…
Back in 1897, there is a fine sailing ship named ‘Demeter’. That ship was taking cargo in a small port in Romania. The ship was led by an experienced Captain Elliot (played by Liam Cunningham) and had a capable First Mate in Wojchek (played by David Dastmalchian). A mysterious group of mountain villagers has droped off cargo to be transported to London. The unknown ower has paid a mighty steep price to get the crates there safely and quickly.
The First mate found a few more crew members in the port, but one person who wanted to return to England was Clemens (played by Corey Hawkins). He was a Black man trained as a doctor. Other local men have been selected by Wojchek, until they ran off the ship in fear. They saw the crates had been marked with dragons, the sign of flying devils.
Clemens saves Captain Elliot grandson, Toby (played by Woody Norman), from a falling crate. Clemens is brought on board for the journey to England. He has not worked on a ship before, the young Toby shows him ropes (so to speak). There is nice dog on the ship, to chase away rats. Plus there are some cages of livestock – for fresh eggs and meat along the way.
Things turn sour very quickly, and Clemons finds one of crates has broken open. There is a mound of earth under the crate, and there is a woman under the dirt. Clemons was trained to be a doctor, but has little time to practice his trade. This woman in named Anna (played by Aisling Franciosi) and she is in bad shape.
Clemons gives Anna blood transfusions, and within days she has recovered a bit. She is afraid that ‘He’ is also on board. But she does not explain. That night, one crew member on night watch goes missing. His knife was found, and a lot of blood on the deck. Maybe he was washed overboard? Anna says – “No, ‘He’ is coming out at night”.
The crew is spooked big time. First it was finding Anna. Then the livestock were all attacked and are dead. Now the crew mate is missing, with blood everywhere. Anna explains to Clemons about the ancient terror named Dracula (played by Javier Botet). He lived in the high mountains near her village. She became a gift to the monster, to appease the beast who would take random people from the village.
Dracula took her blood every night. But now the evil creature cannot find any blood. That is why he is going after the livestock, the dog, and now the crew members. Clemons does not think this can be possible. They tell Captain Elliot and Wojchek, but there is little time. More crew members are gone, and one has been turned into an undead monster.
The ‘infected’ crew member is lashed to the mast. But as dawn’s first light, the man turns into a crispy critter. Soon other crew members are gone, and the beast even comes for Captain Elliot’s dear little Toby. Anna says there is no way to stop Dracula. The best they can do is get him out of the cargo hold. Then they light the ship ablaze while the remaining crew takes to the one single lifeboat.
Sounds like one heckuva plan, where the only thing that could go wrong is everything. The ‘Demeter’ has been cursed ever since the crates were loaded on board the ship. The evil presence on this boat has one goal – make it England where the monster can find fresh blood and suck it out of unwitting people…
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” has very sparse source material. After all, it is based on “The Captain’s Log” chapter from the novel “Dracula”. But the scary subject matter is handled in a very tense and suspenseful manner. Up until that point, only the nearby villages knew anything about the blood-sucking Count. The people on the ship had no idea what was in store.
André Øvredal, the Director, does a masterful job by slowly cranking up the tension and the terror level. He allows for some gross-out scenes and a share of ‘jump scares’. But he does not rely on only the gory to tell the story. There is a slowly disturbing score by Bear McCreary, and the Production design is really up in the top rigging.
Corey Hawkins does a fine job with the doctor up against something he cannot mentally resolve. Aisling Franciosi is really good as the peasant girl wronged by the monster and now out for ‘blood’. Liam Cunningham looks perfect for the role as a grizzled sea captain ready to hang up his spyglass. David Dastmalchian is the First Mate who is First Rate.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is a brand new look at an old monster – the Dracula travelogue story about how he got to England. It’s good to the last bite!
The Last Voyage of the Demeter
Directed by: André Øvredal
Screenplay by: Bragi Schut Jr., Zak Olkewicz
Story by: Bragi Schut Jr.
Based on: “The Captain’s Log” from Dracula (by Bram Stoker)
Starring: Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, David Dastmalchian, Javier Botet, Liam Cunningham, Woody Norman
Cinematography: Tom Stern
Edited by: Patrick Larsgaard
Music by: Bear McCreary
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: August 11, 2023
Length: 119 minutes
MPAA rating: R for bloody violence