The Last Voyage of the Demeter just isn’t scary enough to live up to Dracula’s legacy – Warungku Teknologi

There have been so many cinematic adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and movies inspired by the 1897 novel over the years that it’s actually quite easy to understand some of the logic behind Universal’s The Last Voyage of the Demeter from director André Øvredal. There’s an undeniable brilliance behind the idea of building a feature-length story around one of the most haunting and cryptic chapters from a book that’s terrified multiple generations of horror lovers. But for all of The Last Voyage of the Demeter’s promise and its obvious desire to bring something new and inspired to the larger Dracula canon, the film never quite lives up to its full potential due to a curious lack of outright scares or a properly terrifying atmosphere.

Set in the same year that Dracula was actually published, The Last Voyage of the Demeter draws much of its inspiration from the seventh chapter of Stoker’s novel — a short collection of newspaper clippings and a captain’s log detailing how a small ship full of sailors was besieged and ultimately wrecked by a monstrous presence while traveling from Romania to England.

Being a seasoned sailor who’s spent years ferrying valuable goods on the Demeter, there’s very little about the world that still truly shocks Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) by the time we first meet him in the movie’s opening act as he and his crew are preparing to set sail once again. With Eliot having recently taken in his grandson Toby (Woody Norman) following the death of his daughter, first mate Wojchek (David Dastmalchian), the Demeter’s religious cook Joseph (Jon Jon Briones), and other members of the crew like Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) all know that they’re more than just colleagues to their captain.

Eliot’s crew is his family, and he’s the key to them all making some real money transporting valuable cargo for whoever can afford their services. With the Demeter short-staffed ahead of its latest voyage from Romania to England, though, the sailors also know that they need some new blood on board, which is part of why doctor / philosopher / Cambridge graduate Clemens (Corey Hawkins) ends up being hired to join their ranks.

Being based on an interesting yet very sparse chapter from a novel the way The Last Voyage of the Demeter is, you can see why screenwriters Bragi Schut Jr. and Zak Olkewicz felt the need to pad this story with even more salty sailors and a brief but important exchange between Eliot and the unnamed group of fearful Romani villagers who drop off the precious, mysterious cargo he’s meant to carry over the ocean. In the same way that you probably know what’s in the massive crate the Demeter takes on, none of the villagers responsible for bringing it to the ship want anything to do with it, and they’re all keen on getting back to their homes before the sun sets.

With a premise as straightforward as this — “what happens when a vampire sneaks its way onto a doomed boat and starts picking sailors off?” — the challenge the movie’s up against is one of finding a novel way of presenting a classic tale rather than full-on reworking the source material for modern sensibilities. Eliot, Clemens, and the rest of the Demeter’s crew set sail for England despite all of the obvious red flags that something’s wrong because the narrative needs them to, and there wouldn’t be much of a film if they all acted with common sense.

But rather than immediately getting to the important work of creating the kind of unsettling atmosphere you’d expect from a movie about Dracula on a 20th-century boat, The Last Voyage of the Demeter gets entirely too caught up trying to positively and negatively humanize its heroes with extraneous details that don’t add much to the story.

While the film spends quite a bit of time impressing upon you how Clemens’ — who Hawkins inhabits with a steely reservedness that only eases up when he’s around Toby — Blackness makes people like Wojchek see him as less than, it does little to make Dracula’s (Javier Botet) first proper on-screen appearance really pop the way it should.

Whereas Stoker’s novel was able to give you a sense of the confusion, fear, and madness that gradually overtook the Demeter’s crew as their journey progressed, Øvredal’s film simply lays its events out without fully capitalizing on all the interesting ways it could have framed itself as a more cerebral and claustrophobic thriller. It isn’t until well into the film that everyone on the Demeter starts to become concerned with the fact that people are just straight-up disappearing from the ship while they’re in the middle of the ocean. That sort of willful ignorance can work in horror films, especially when the story’s done a solid job of establishing how and why people might be able to delude themselves into ignoring the obvious.

Here, though, it makes the Demeter’s crew seem almost comedically hapless and leaves the film feeling like it doesn’t know how else to scare viewers aside from occasionally pointing the camera at a monster dripping in VFX before it tears into someone’s throat. Thankfully, the film does pick up some much-needed momentum in its final third, which is marked by a wonderful sense of desperation and hopelessness that’s exactly what the rest of The Last Voyage of the Demeter needs. It’s just a shame that energy isn’t more evenly distributed because, when it’s present, you can see a glimpse of the truly great Dracula movie this could have been.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter also stars Nikolai Nikolaeff, Chris Walley, Nicolo Pasetti, and Sally Reeve. The film hits theaters on August 11th.

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