Universal Pictures, the distributor for “The Last Voyage of the Demeter,” appears to have missed a significant marketing opportunity that, in this reviewer’s opinion, could have capitalized on the Halloween season in October. At the time of writing, this horror film was struggling at the box office.
In terms of the story, the creative team diverged from the well-trodden path of Bram Stoker’s Dracula adaptations and navigated this narrative into uncharted territory. Taking inspiration from a chapter in the Captain’s log, the tale unfolds as the merchant ship Demeter sets sail on a perilous journey from Romania to England. However, as night envelops the ship, safety yields to a reign of terror, thrusting the crew into torment at the hands of an unwelcome and bloodthirsty passenger—a vampire stowaway.
Corey Hawkins, a two-time Tony award nominee, known for his debut in the film “Straight Out of Compton,” delivers a solid performance as Dr. Clemens, the erudite British doctor on board. Despite his presence, the crew’s collective inaction against the malevolent antagonist raises logical questions. With a group of able-bodied individuals on board, why doesn’t the crew seize the opportunity to eliminate the vampire while he slumbers in his coffin? Even the British doctor’s expertise fails to galvanize them into action. While interactions between characters, including the stern first mate Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) and the captain’s inexperienced grandson Toby (Woody Norman), present intriguing dynamics, they fail to reach their full potential.
Amidst the chilling atmosphere, mysterious cargo boxes hint at the horrors that lie ahead. Yet, director André Øvredal struggles to sustain a consistent sense of suspense. Instead of building tension, the film leans heavily on gore and violence, sacrificing the opportunity for genuine intrigue in favor of shock value.
A notable facet of the film is the inclusion of a strong, warrior-like woman among the crew. While her presence adds a layer of complexity, the impending doom that hovers over the crew remains inescapable. The portrayal of Dracula, resembling a monstrous, winged bat, underscores his terrifying nature. However, the opportunity to delve into a more multifaceted characterization of the vampire is regrettably overlooked.
As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that the crew, unwittingly, serves as Dracula’s perpetual buffet—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night snack. This notion, while morbidly fascinating, ultimately underscores the inescapable fate that awaits them.
In its entirety, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” falls short of delivering the spine-chilling horror it aspires to achieve. Despite its promising premise, the film struggles to maintain suspense and character depth, preventing it from realizing its full potential. Though moments of enjoyment can be found, the overall experience leaves much to be desired.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is currently showing in theaters, with a run-time of 1 hour and 58 minutes. Directed by André Øvredal and penned by Bragi F. Schut, Zak Olkewicz, and inspired by Bram Stoker’s work, the film boasts a cast including Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian, and Chris Walley. Rated R for its intense fighting and biting scenes.