Review: The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)

I feel that I slipped into an alternate reality for a brief period because I could have sworn the titular ship was named “Dementer”, not Demeter, but I stand corrected. Dementer does sound better though, just for the record.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter, now showing in cinemas across Australia, is the latest film from Norwegian director, André Øvredal, who made his American debut with the chilling post-mortem horror, The Autopsy of Jane Doe in 2016. Adapted from the chapter, “The Captain’s Log” in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the plot charts Dracula’s voyage aboard the ageing cargo ship, Demeter, from Bulgaria to London, during which the emaciated vampire feeds on the ship’s crew one by one.

I regrettably haven’t read the infamous horror novel, but this maritime nightmare has made it into a few big screen representations, as early as the silent classic Nosferatu (1922), followed soon after by Universal’s 1931 treatment and Francis Ford Coppola’s more faithful adaptation; all three of which devote only minutes to the popular chapter.

With two hours at Øvredal’s disposal, he certainly justifies stretching ‘X’ number of pages into a feature-length film and while it’s overall a little underwhelming, story-wise, The Last Voyage of the Demeter is visually impressive and enveloped in a foreboding atmosphere that feeds off superstition. To my amazement, the film is far less digital than I anticipated with a ship that’s clearly real, riddled with age and character, and the kind of sets viewers can practically smell.

Liam Cunningham is at the helm as the ship’s captain, who is your rather typical deadly-serious authority figure, granted he does play it well, but that’s the issue, everyone here is kind of “basic”. Most of our cast seems like they’re there to meet a horror movie quota of various archetypes that ultimately meet their demise in a bloody fashion. Corey Hawkins is the film’s central figure as Clemens, a doctor disenchanted by the world until, of course, he must face true evil. While the character leans on the educated underdog trope, like Cunningham, the American actor turns in a good performance. Also notable is Aisling Franciosi as Dracula’s personal blood band, Anna, who had I feel more to offer than the script allowed.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter manages to capture the essence of Universal’s Monster Classics while catering to the appetite of modern horror fans in delivering a very animalistic Dracula that permeates evil and is traditional in appearance, akin to Salem’s Lot’s Mr. Barlow.

(2023, director: André)


production stills provided by StudioCanal



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