‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ Movie Review

Aug 18, 2023 | 0 comments


‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ (2023)
Universal Pictures

Directed by: André Øvredal
Written by: Bragi Schut Jr & Zak Olkewicz
Starring: Corey Hawkins, Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian, Aisling Franciosi, Woody Norman, Stefan Kapicic & Javier Botet.


Dracula. One of the most iconic monsters in all of cinema with, to date, over 30 various film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s original novel itself and even more appearances by the character in one form or another throughout both the big screen and television. The story has been told to the public in the 1924 stage play which was, itself, adapated into the 1931 movie that truly kicked off the “Universal Monsters” franchise in earnest. There are other “fresh takes” on the Dracula character such as ‘Dracula 2000‘ which offers the origin of Dracula originally being Judas Iscariot who was cursed by God to roam the Earth as a vampire after betraying Jesus. However, I have always thought that the gold standard story was ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘ from 1992 starring in the titular role with an all-star cast featuring Anthony Hopkins as The Count’s arch nemesis, Abraham Van Helsing. It is in this film, which I always felt was a fairly faithful adaption of the novel, that we find a segment that always stood out to me as truly haunting and that scene tells the story of the cargo ship Demeter. The scene itself in the movie only takes about 2 minutes and, in Stoker’s original tome,  the events onboard the ship happen over the course of a single chapter simply called “The Captain’s Log”. The ship is loaded with cargo in the Bulgarian port of Varna. Cargo which, unbeknownst to the crew, contains several crates of dirt and earth from the Romanian estate of Castle Dracula. And in one of those crates is the vampire himself. By the time the ship arrives, the entire crew is dead, the captain is lashed to the wheel, the vessel itself has blood everywhere and whispers of a large dog seen jumping off of the ship  and running into town are heard. It is this chapter from the book, this two minute segment from the film which comprise the plot of ‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’. In the course of the film, we get into the story of the crew and how this particular ship became the means of transport for evil incarnate to the shores of England and just what exactly happened to the souls onboard.

(from left) Clemens (Corey Hawkins) and Anna (Aisling Franciosi) in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, directed by André Øvredal.

The idea, to me, was quite exciting! I love vampires in general and Dracula in particular so anything that adds to the lore is already going to intrigue me. However, it had to be done JUST right. This is basically the ‘Rogue One‘ of Dracula – that is to say, it’s a snippet of a story with which we are all very familiar, but there is room within that snippet upon which to expand and flesh out those previously unnamed characters. We all know that Princess Leia has the plans for the Death Star in ‘A New Hope‘ and that obtaining them came at a great cost, but prior to ‘Rogue One’, we never knew just what getting the plans entailed. How dangerous was it? Who was involved? Why did they risk their lives? ‘Rogue One’ brilliantly answers all of these questions for us. With ‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter‘, we now are granted access to those same questions that people may have had ever since reading this chapter in the original novel regarding who the people were who made up this crew. We find out why they were taking on this cargo. Most importantly, we learn what they did to fight the monster that they came to find stalking them. The acting in the film is wonderful. Period pieces always delight me and, when it comes to an actor’s performance, there is no where in a period piece for bad acting to hide. (See Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker in the afforementioned ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula‘ to get a taste of what I mean.) David Dastmalchian, who plays Wojchek, the First Mate, is one of the best and easily one of the most underrated actors of our current day. He immerses himself so completely into a role as to be unrecognizable which is why I often refer to him as a young Geoffrey Rush. Corey Hawkins, who plays Dr. Clemens, is equally formidable in this film. He portrays an Englishman who comes aboard as additional crew in order to make his way back home to London after several years away for reasons which are explained later in the story. Aisling Franciosi who plays Anna, Liam Cunningham as the ship’s Captain Eliot and Woody Norman who plays Toby, the captain’s grandson, round out the main cast. Just like it takes an entire crew all working at their best to sail a ship, it takes every actor working at the top of their game to bring off the necessary gravitas of a film like this, and every one of them delivers.


The movie drips atmosphere from bow to stern and the setting of a ship at sea autmatically adds to the tension of the story. Once it is determined that there is something onboard that is killing them, the crew realizes that they have no where to go in order to escape. The sense of dread and the air of forboding are slowly and deliberately ratcheted up as the movie slinks its way through the 1hr and 59min run time. Director does a masterful job handling the reins on this project and the score by Bear McCreary adds depth and layers to the film’s already formidable atmosphere. Sadly, the ending of the movie was where things really hit the rocks for me, personally. As you know, I always try to keep my reviews spoiler free and to say anything more would ruin the movie for some out there who may be reading this before having seen the film. Suffice to say that things which happen in the movie’s last 10 minutes go against (or at least sit contrary to) established Dracula lore. While this movie was, in my mind, supposed to flesh out a previously overlooked aspect of Dracula’s journey, the ending seems to be at odds with that initial instinct on my part and ended up sidestepping what could have been an otherwise near-perfect film. Off the top of my head, I could think of at least 6 more satisfying endings that would have fit in better with what we know of Dracula’s continued story while also satisfying the audiences at large. What happens here is certainly a choice, but I ended up feeling slightly cheated by it. Wondering if I was alone, I asked a few others in my screening if I was off base, but evidently, I was not alone in my assessment. The main problem, aside from the ending, is that WE all already know what is stalking them and therefore, we don’t quite have that full on sense of panic that might otherwise have presented itself. Thankfully, the acting, the atmosphere and the interesting journey that this crew takes more than compensates for that small hurdle. It’s a beautiful film and certainly one that is worth seeing; just be prepared to roll your eyes a little during the denouement. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say ‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ sails its way to a respectable 7. See it in theaters beginning August 11th!

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