Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been milked by Hollywood 100 times over and the question becomes, did we need another telling of Dracula? Not really, but since The Last Voyage of the Demeter is here, let’s talk about how it stacks up within the genre and whether it’s worth checking out.
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. When the Demeter finally arrives off the shores of England, it is a charred, derelict wreck. There is no trace of the crew.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is considered iconic. And among some of the most chilling pieces of that story is the single first chapter account from the captain’s log detailing the voyage of the Demeter. Using a single chapter might seem like there isn’t enough information to flesh out a film that introduces such an iconic villain and his voyage to England, but director André Øvredal managed to use that very succinct story material to craft a film that brought back comparisons to the first Alien film.
The comparison comes from the basic premise that the big bad doesn’t need to be front and center on the screen. The build-up of the horror of what is among the crew on the ship, combined with the deaths creates a sense of dread and tension that gets released as we get deeper into the story and into the final home stretch. One of the great things about the story is as each ray of hope is revealed, the film quickly snuffs it out, and as that formula continues the doom of the crew is felt by the audience. And without spoilers, this part of the synopsis spells it out pretty well “When the Demeter finally arrives off the shores of England, it is a charred, derelict wreck. There is no trace of the crew.”
You could argue that some of the crew’s actions were lazy, not realistic, or that they made dumb choices, but let’s remember the age in which the story takes place, the unknown nature of the entity they were dealing with, and the abject fear building within the crew. Much like the Alien films, nobody had ever dealt with such a creature before and if humans are consistent with anything, it’s making bad choices.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter may not be anything groundbreaking, but its lean and solid storytelling makes for a satisfying horror flick that is reminiscent of the first Alien film and left me wanting to see the next chapter in the story continue.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is in theaters on August 11th.