Dracula has been the subject of numerous adaptations for a reason: he’s a fascinating and complex character who embodies many of our darkest fears. He is also charismatic and seductive, which makes him all the more dangerous. This combination of factors has made the Prince of Darkness one of the most popular and enduring characters in the history of the horror genre.
In The Last Voyage of the Demeter, directed by André Øvredal (Troll Hunter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe), the focus narrows to a specific chapter from Bram Stoker’s original novel: The Captain’s Log. The film follows the ill-fated journey of the Demeter, a ship tasked with transporting a sizable wooden crate from Varna, Bulgaria to London. The crew soon faces a series of strange and deadly occurrences, including the deaths of several members, eventually revealing that the crate harbors Dracula, a bloodthirsty vampire who systematically eliminates the crew.
The film’s opening scenes skillfully build suspense by holding off on revealing the monster’s appearance until the very end. This deliberate choice leaves a sense of unease, as it encourages the audience to ponder who (or what) is lurking the shadows. It’s in these moments that Dracula effectively instills fear; he is a truly fearsome creature, with a grotesque appearance that simultaneously repels and captivates. These initial sequences show promise, firmly establishing Dracula as a significant presence. However, as the story advances, its shortcomings become increasingly evident.
The choice to concentrate on a single chapter from Stoker’s novel proves risky and, in hindsight, counterproductive. The chapter’s brevity fails to sustain a feature-length film, causing the movie to feel padded and stretched. A tighter script and more focused storytelling could have enriched the experience, potentially making it more engaging and satisfying.
The film faces an additional challenge due to its lack of character development. While the economy of characterization might suffice for a book chapter, a full-length film demands nuanced characters with depth. For instance, Clemens (Corey Hawkins), introduced as a doctor with a mysterious background, remains underexplored. His character feels rushed and underdeveloped, lacking clear motivations for what should be a compelling protagonist. Side characters similarly blend together, leading to indifference as they meet their eventual fates.
Reflecting on this, it’s frustrating to see such a promising concept fall short. The film’s potential is hindered by its inability to effectively captivate the audience, resulting in repetitive and lackluster scenes. This is frustrating, as one might wonder how a different director like Robert Eggers, acclaimed for his knack in crafting immersive atmospheres within the horror genre with films like The Witch, could have elevated the film’s ambiance. Ultimately, Øvredal’s film grapples with translating its intriguing premise into an engaging reality, leaving audiences wanting more.
I was genuinely excited about watching The Last Voyage of the Demeter. The prospect of a confined setting like a ship intrigued me, and the premise seemed full of potential. Unfortunately, the film turned out to be a letdown. The pacing dragged, the plot became monotonous, and the characters lacked depth. The filmmakers attempted to stretch a single chapter story to feature length, but it resulted in a padded and tedious experience. If you’re seeking a truly spine-chilling vampire tale, I would honestly suggest opting for the book instead of the movie.