The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023): Movie Review 😱😱😱😱👤
When we all went to go see Titanic in theaters in 1997, we pretty much knew how the movie was going to end — unless you didn’t pay one iota of attention in History class and thought Titanic was the name of an awesome new dinosaur coming in the Jurassic Park sequel coming out that same summer. Don’t judge me; Titanosaur is real and it predates that “unsinkable ship” by years. But you know what I mean; we all went in to that film knowing the boat was going to sink – yet we went to see the movie anyway.
Similarly, we already know how The Last Voyage of the Demeter needs to end, as it is based on an early section of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” – from the Captain’s Log of the Demeter, which was the ship that brought Count Dracula to England unaware the vampire was in the cargo hold. The Demeter ran aground on the coast of England with no crew on board – everyone dead or missing. Sorry if that’s a spoiler, but the novel has been around since May 26th, 1897 so you’ve had sufficient time to read it. Plus, the first few seconds of The Last Voyage of the Demeter tells you all of this right up front before even the first scene of the movie. So logic demands that, if you have the rest of the novel talking about Dracula’s exploits after arriving in England, he probably survives the whole Demeter thing and goes hunting juicy human necks and making movies in the guise of Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Leslie Nielsen.
Despite knowing how Titanic would end, most people liked the film – they came up with a captivating story with great character-building, and while we knew going in that the ending would be tragic, we enjoyed the ride. The writers and producers of The Last Voyage of The Demeter have attempted to do the same – and for the most part, they’ve succeeded. I found myself rooting for certain characters, and disturbed once their inevitable demise arrived. They spent juuuust long enough at the beginning allowing us to get to know a couple of the primary characters so that we cared about what would happen to them. Unfortunately, that could not be said for all — or even most — of the characters. But then, this is a horror movie, not a romantic drama, and we are here to experience bloodshed, guts, screaming, and an evil undead monster. So, caring even about two characters is saying a lot.
When you saw the original Halloween for the first time, did you care about anybody other than Laurie Strode? Nope. Did you love the movie anyway? Yep.
What I like most about The Last Voyage of the Demeter is that it tells a part of the Dracula story that is rarely touched upon – the trip overseas before he arrives in England to begin his reign of terror on land. It takes up only a few pages in the actual novel (the first chapter) – but at least it takes up those pages. Stoker obviously felt that part of Dracula’s story was important, otherwise why include it? Yet, in most Dracula films, it is glossed over or completely ignored in order to get to the rest of the story – when honestly, after seeing this film, I have to wonder why it took this long to get a decent treatment of it. The scenario of being trapped on a ship with a monster… works! Okay, so maybe sending Jason Voorhees into space wasn’t the best idea, but the “monster on a ship” premise IS what made the film Alien so terrifying. In space you can’t get off the ship and run away from the beast ripping the crew apart. On the vast open ocean, you also can’t get off the ship and run away from the beast ripping the crew apart. It’s an interesting parallel… and very effective.
Jump scares are kept to a minimum, although you are often led to believe you are about to encounter one. Every time someone turned around to see what was behind them, you assumed they’d see the vampire – because that’s what the movie trope is – but thankfully that is not being relied upon too often. The dark shadows of the ship make for a perfect hiding place for the monster to come out of nowhere, which makes the attacks that much more satisfying. This is not the Dracula you grew up with – there is no suit or cape, no slicked back hair, no being romantic with the ladies. This Dracula is more monster than man, which is made very evident by the creature design. I’m guessing a lot of inspiration was taken from F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu from 1922 – an unauthorized telling of Dracula (which is why they changed Dracula’s name to “Orlock” – to attempt to get around copyright issues), but it’s also one of the most loyal to the subject matter at hand. And, ironically, it’s one of the only films that does cover the Demeter to some degree in the storyline. In fact, Dracula here very much looks like Orlock – especially the final time we see him in The Last Voyage of the Demeter. You have to wonder if this might be director Andre Ovredal’s way of striking first with the character jumping ahead using the character of Nosferatu before Robert Eggers‘ take on Nosferatu starring Bill Skarsgard as the titular vampire is eventually released once post production is complete. Even the credits of The Last Voyage of the Demeter has the actor playing Dracula, Javier Botet, also listed as Nosferatu. Hmmm. I think I might be on to something here. Aaaaaaanyway…
I do have one tiny criticism. Dracula, in this case, should be more like Orlock in Nosferatu. He should be a cold, calculated, unfeeling, emotionless animal out to survive by eating the crew. But several times in the film it appears that he is… smiling; like he is enjoying himself. It’s a small thing, I know, but after living hundreds upon hundreds of years using this same method for sustenance, what enjoyment would there be left in it for him? You might love meatloaf – but this would be like eating meatloaf day after day after day after day after day after day for hundreds of years. Nothing new, nothing unique, just snapping another Slim Jim until time to eat the next one, not even a Little Debbie to break up the routine. I think I would have preferred a version of Dracula with zero emotions – like a wild animal simply out to eat; just an unstoppable force of nature (or in this case, supernatural) doing what it does to survive. And they came close to that – very close – except for that smile. Reserve emotions for when the creature is in human form (which we never see on the Demeter) – but when in this Man-Bat cosplay, make him completely soulless and empty of any feelings whatsoever. I’m assuming that what he is doing is smiling – it might have been the costume/creature design and unintended to be an actual smile, but that’s how it came across to me.
The film is not only dark in content, but also dark visually – yet on the big screen you can still clearly see what director André Øvredal wants you to see, and the cinematography by Roman Osin and Tom Stern is stunningly beautiful even in the darkest of scenes.
I was never really familiar much with actor Corey Hawkins before this, so I was unaware of his star power potential – but he is so good in his role, remaining humble when needing something from a society that doesn’t quite accept him, but also taking more of a leadership role when the situation demands it.
Getting second billing is Aisling Franciosi, which would lead you to believe she’d have almost as much screen time as Corey Hawkins, but I feel she was actually underutilized and only received second billing due to her name-recognition. She wasn’t given enough in my opinion to really show her acting chops, though what she was given was very good and she did well with it. I would just have liked to have seen more character development and backstory.
A real standout is child actor Woody Norman who plays the captain’s son, Toby. I found myself more and more engaged with each scene this kid was a part of. He brings his character an heir of “wisdom from experience” and true emotion when it’s required.
Since we know that this is only the beginning of Dracula’s story at the beginning of Bram Stoker’s novel, you have to wonder if perhaps the word “sequel” is already in the works. Well, in the film we are told that Dracula can appear human if he chooses – so that would give us a direction to go for future installments… albeit it would not be on the Demeter because this is The Last Voyage of the Demeter – plus that’s not where the novel goes. Honestly I would love to see a sequel of this especially if they keep the look of the creature and only change it slightly to be more like Orlock when he’s playing Dracula. That would be amazing! But I suggest seeing the film before you begin googling possible sequels, as the articles that discuss it also give away spoilers.
For me, I really liked the film and I’ll likely be renting it once it hits streaming – maybe even buying it. But as dark as it is visually, I’d recommend seeing it on a giant screen in a theater while you still can to get the full effect of it. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.
Four out of five scream from me! 😱😱😱😱👤