The Last Voyage of the Demeter
the last voyage of the demeter | andre ovredal | bragi f. schut | zak olkewicz | corey hawkins | aisling franciosi | liam cunningham | vampire | vampires | monster | creature | based on | novel | bram stoker | boat | fantasy | david dastmalchian | united kingdom | united states
Film: The Last Voyage of the Demeter
Director: André Øvredal
Writers: Bragi F. Schut and Zak Olkewicz
Starring: Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi and Liam Cunningham
This is a movie that I was intrigued by when I heard it was being made. It was coming out an interesting time with the likes of Renfield and a potential Nosferatu remake. All are telling, or in the case of the latter – retelling, a variation on the story of Dracula. This is an intriguing tale to tell since in the novel from Bram Stoker, we read about what happened on the fateful voyage from Transylvania to England and how the men on the Demeter had no idea what they’re in for. There is credit here to Stoker for the Captain’s Log section as well.
Synopsis: a crew sailing from Carpathia to England find that they are carrying dangerous cargo.
Where I’ll start is on the coast of England. A ship has crashed and it draws the attention of the police amongst others. A man who went aboard and saw the horrors is distraught. He is questioned. They see that he has the Captain’s Log. The police officer takes it and starts to read.
This takes us to the port where the Demeter is docked. The captain is Eliot (Liam Cunningham). His first mate is Wojchek (David Dastmalchian). They’ve been commissioned to take boxes to England. They’re short men though. Anyone who is a free agent is gathered to hire them for this voyage. One of them is Clemens (Corey Hawkins). He knows his way around boats, but he is trained as a doctor and familiar with astronomy. He is denied by Wojchek though. One of the men he hires freaks out seeing the boxes they’re loading bears the mark of a dragon. He isn’t the only one who states this is bad luck and will not join the journey.
Clemens saves Capt. Eliot’s nephew, Toby (Woody Norman), from disaster. This grants Clemens passage on the ship. Their goal is to make it to England as fast as possible as there is a bonus. Clemens is given the lay of the ship, which also helps us. This voyage has bad luck like they were warned about. There are animals on board that are kept alive until they need to be eaten. Something kills them. Clemens also finds a young woman, named Anna (Aisling Franciosi) in the cargo hold. The men think she is bad luck and she is also a stow-away. They want to throw her into the ocean. Clemens refuses and nurses her back to life. The omens of sea-faring knowledge are not in their favor.
There is something much worse on this ship though. It is seen by one of the sailors and it drives him mad. They’re picked off by this creature of the night, trying to make it back to England before it is too late.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that as a continuity guy, I can be a stickler here. This movie is an interesting concept. When I first heard about it, I loved it. This section of the story is interesting. We have Dracula stuck with a group of sailors on a boat. They’re in the middle of the water and trapped. When I was settling in to watch this, I started to look at this like a prequel. I know how this must end, having read the novel and seen countless adaptations of the source. It is a place where if they do something different, it might not work for me. If they follow how it is supposed to end, then it is predictable. I enjoy prequels, but they tend to take tension or stakes for me due to this. I just wanted to set that up.
Now I’m not going to spoil things there. What I find interesting is that this would be an interesting movie to watch with Nosferatu or Bram Stoker’s Dracula from 1992. If they did almost a super-cut where you get the opening sections of either movie, intercut the events here and then go back to either variation, it would work. The version of the vampire that we get here would look better with the former, just because we get that more feral version. How this movie ends though would fit better in the latter. I did like going with the more monstrous vampire here. It is more terrifying since we aren’t given character development of it directly. That is done through Anna. I didn’t realize that it was Jaiver Botet taking on the monster, but it made sense when I figured that out. I like what they did here. The CGI wasn’t great, but I can roll with it.
Where I’ll then go would be folklore and social commentary. More people would be excited for the former. I like that we have limited information on the creature. We don’t have an expert on board. Anna knows of it since she grew up in the village that it stalked. There’s a great line where she’s asked how to kill it and she doesn’t have an answer. They’ve just always lived in fear of it. More along with this then is the maritime legends. The men are upset they have a woman on board. That is a bad omen. I’ve heard this before so that brought me more enjoyment. Then I’ll go over to what people will complain about, social commentary. Clemens is black. They put into the story his past which was interesting. He cannot find work so he is bouncing around. I liked that. There is even a racist moment on the ship. I thought these were handled well. You can ignore it or for me, it added a bit. Intriguing to see this has been an issue this far back and I believe that.
I think that should be enough with the story so over to the rest of the acting. I’ve said that Hawkins and Botet were good in their roles. I like Franciosi as our ‘expert’, even though she doesn’t know much more than her counterparts. She was solid as Anna. I liked seeing Cunningham as I envision him as a variation on his character from Game of Thrones. He plays well with Dastmalchian, who is having a good year as well. Chris Walley, Jon Jon Briones, Stefan Kapicic, Martin Furulund and Nikolai Nikolaeff were good as the rest of the sailors on the Demeter. Norman was fine in his role. The acting overall was solid and I had no issues there.
All that is left then would be filmmaking. I’ll start with the effects. I’m glad that this went bloody. There is fears that what is happening on board could be rabies. Clemens doesn’t think so, but he doesn’t know how to verbalize it. The wounds are animalistic which fits with the version of the vampire. The practical stuff is good. They go too much with CGI for my liking, which is a bummer. Not enough to ruin it, so there is that. I’ll also acknowledge that where it is used it needed to be to bring things to life. I will say, having Øvredal as the director works since he has history working with good CGI. I do think that the cinematography is good. It captures the claustrophobia of the ship. It does also make it feel big enough where a monster could hide still. The atmosphere works. The only other thing is the soundtrack, which was fine. It didn’t stand out or hurt the film. I do think what they do with voices of characters works, especially the whispering of the villain.
In conclusion, I thought this was solid. There is a good story here to tell. The problem that I have is that it fits into a tight box of the overall narrative to the novel it is taken from. If they do their own thing, that violates it. If you stick to the story, the tension isn’t necessarily there since I know how this must end. None of these ruins it though. I thought the version of the vampire was good. The acting was solid across the board. I’d also say that this is well-made. My only issue there is with using as much CGI as they do. I’d still say give this a watch. It is a mainstream horror film that goes brutal with things that it does and I appreciated that for sure.
My Rating: 7 out of 10