Dracula is no stranger to the big screen so it takes an extra effort to stand out among the many adaptations. The Last Voyage of the Demeter focuses on a single chapter from the iconic novel and tells the story of the ill fated final trip of the Demeter as it travels to London with the blood-sucking vampire aboard. Told through the Captain’s own logs, the horror film paints a brutal and bloodthirsty portrait of Dracula that is to be feared. The Last Voyage of the Demeter hits you like a stake through the heart; it’s gruesome, scary, and unrelenting. As far a traditional horror goes, Dracula shows why he’s at the top of the monster list.
Bound from Transylvania to London, the Demeter sets sail with 50 massive wooden crates from an unknown client who is willing to pay a hefty bonus for a prompt delivery. Not long after launch however, mysterious things start happening aboard the ship. At first the animals are brutally killed, their blood drained from their bodies, and then a supposed stowaway woman is found barely clinging to life. She reveals that there is a powerful creature on board and that they’re all going to die, much to the dismissal of the crew. But when the crewmembers slowly start to disappear one by one, they come to realize the true horror they now face.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter is simply gushing with character, not just of the crew but of the ship itself. Clemens, played by Corey Hawkins, is a doctor who joins the crew shortly before they set sail and is a man of science and reason. As a Black man, he himself has been subject to horrors within his own life and seeks to try and understand the world rather than change it. He’s constantly an outsider, both due to his race and him being a newcomer to the ship’s crew. Only after saving Captain Elliot’s (Liam Cunningham) son from being crushed by a fallen crate does he even earn a spot on the Demeter. The captain runs a tight ship thanks in part to his first mate Wojchek (David Dastmalchian). The ship is beautiful in its own unique way. Every room feels like it’s been lived in. The wood creaks as the ship rocks back and forth and rats scurry across the boards. Corridors are cramped and dark. You can feel the heaviness in the air. It is by no means a pretty or easy life being a sailor. There’s a moment where Wojchek refuses to abandon ship, saying how it’s the only home he knows, and you believe him. Dastmalchian gives an amazing performance in the role, perhaps one of the best he’s done on screen, and you can see the pain in his eyes as everything is ripped from him. As seamen they have their own beliefs and ideas when out on open water. All of that gets thrown off the deck when Dracula begins sucking the life out of everyone on board.
Dracula is the textbook definition of a monster. He’s a creature who hunts and feeds on others. There is nothing pretty or redeeming about him. Every night he awakens, he haunts the crew with a single-minded determination; blood. The Last Voyage of the Demeter doesn’t shy away from portraying him as the beast that he is. Dracula doesn’t care if you’re an animal or a child or a man with a weapon; no one is safe from his grasp. With each feasting, he becomes more and more powerful. For the crew, this isn’t a matter of how they can kill the beast, it’s just a matter of how they can survive. The film borrows heavily from classic horror films like Alien, The Thing, and Halloween. Dracula is this supernatural force of evil that has been unleashed upon this crew. He hides in the shadows of the ship, lurking in the darkness. The sun is the only true safe haven, but that is short lived before the terror begins again every night at sea.
It’s not the smartest of horror films, however. There are moments where you do question the actions of some of the crew. At one point they are searching for the monster’s hideout during the night, and that’s already after they know it doesn’t like the sun. That doesn’t take away from the fun and fright of it all, though. The characters are believable enough and while some things aren’t explicitly said, you can infer your own reasoning behind some of their decisions.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter absolutely nails the atmosphere and terror of being trapped on a ship with Dracula. It doesn’t get too caught up in the details, instead focusing on a horrifying game of cat and mouse where the “cat” is a giant winged demon with sharp fangs. Horror fans rejoice, this is one film worth sinking your teeth into.
Told through the Captain’s own logs, the horror film paints a brutal and bloodthirsty portrait of Dracula that is to be feared. The Last Voyage of the Demeter hits you like a stake through the heart; it’s gruesome, scary, and unrelenting.