The Last Voyage of the Demeter, based on a small passage in Bram Stoker’s original Dracula novel, is one of the better takes on vampire lore in modern cinema.
There haven’t been a lot of great vampire movies. Heck, there haven’t been a lot of good ones. While Demeter isn’t great, it’s definitely good—even though a lot of people seem to disagree. It may be one of the more unjustly maligned movies of the year (rocking a lackluster 48% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing). It had me dreading my place in the movie-theater seat for all of the right reasons: It’s foreboding; it’s creepy; it’s gross; and, most importantly, it is often quite scary.
And, oh boy, it’s vicious. When folks check out for good in this movie, they go out in a bad way. Because this is vampirism we are dealing with, individuals often have multiple deaths that are horribly unsettling. The sun just doesn’t dig those newly turned vampires.
The movie takes place in 1897 out at sea, as a ship and its crew sail toward England with mysterious cargo aboard. That cargo, of course, would be Dracula and at least one of his “wives,” who is along for the ride so he has a snack in between his feedings on crew members. Nobody is safe in this movie, which is unrelenting and merciless when it comes to picking its victims. The mark of a decent horror film is feeling that nobody—regardless of age, gender or species—is safe.
Director André Øvredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) knows what is scary, and his Dracula (Javier Botet) is one unholy beast; it is a cross between F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, the cave creatures from The Descent, and the thing on the wing of the plane in George Miller’s segment of the Twilight Zone movie. This creature actually got me to scream out loud in the theater during one of its kills. I must tell you … I don’t do shit like that. I’ve been to a lot of movies. You have to put your shit together well for me to freak out and yell.
In between the atmospheric, nighttime, often-rainy kills, the movie is just OK. A lot of scruffy people (including Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi and Liam Cunningham) stand around and talk about what in the hell they are going to do, and these stretches can be a little boring. Fortunately, there’s plenty of carnage and creeps, and the good scenes outweigh the drab ones.
Perhaps The Last Voyage of the Demeter will gain some sort of cult status or more appreciation when it becomes available for streaming/screaming. Seriously, I screamed during this movie. That … doesn’t … happen.