Film Reviews

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Title: The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Describe This Movie Using One Simpsons Quote:
HOMER: Oh, Lisa, you and your stories: "Bart's a vampire." "Beer kills brain cells." Now, let's go back to that...building thingy. Where our beds and TV... is.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Some stowaways are worse than others.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4 xenomorphs out of 5.
Tagline: "The legend of Dracula is born."

Better Tagline: "Goes for the jugular. No, really."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: In 1897, the wreck of the merchant ship Demeter washed up in the North Sea town of Whitby, England. Police could find no trace of the crew or evidence of what happened on its trip. That is, except for the log of Captain Elliott (Liam Cunningham), whose tale starts with the ship taking on a young doctor named Clemens (Corey Hawkins) and several mysterious crates from Romania.
"Critical" Analysis: Norwegian director André Øvredal made his mark with Trollhunters and The Autopsy of Jane Doe. The Last Voyage of the Demeter continues this impressive run. All the more so since the project fell to Øvredal decades after screenwriter Bragi Schut Jr. first hit upon the idea after seeing a miniature of the doomed ship used in the production of Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Demeter is refreshingly suspenseful, carrying with it a satisfyingly pervasive aura of dread to go with some seriously gnarly deaths. Øvredal, minus a few darkly humorous touches, never gives the audience a chance to relax: the crew of the ship are in peril pretty much from the get-go, just like that old Romani warned them about.

The film does a very good job fleshing out that one chapter, which was one of the more horrifying in Stoker's novel. Øvredal and Schut, Jr. introduce the unnamed (in the book) characters, and provide almost all of them with more backstory than the story demands  (especially since they're pretty much all doomed). David Dastmalchian is as normal as he's ever been, portraying Demeter first mate Wojchek, and Cunningham reminds everyone why he was one of the best things about Game of Thrones.

But Hawkins and Aisling Franciosi really stand out. Clemens is a man desperate to make sense of a nonsensical world, while Franciosi's Anna has seen the darkness and knows what it means to fight it. It's nothing approaching the depths she had to plumb for The Nightingale (thank god), but she makes the most of her role.

A combination of bestial and sinister, the Dracula of Demeter is as monstrous as anything from Blade or Fright Night, yet he (or it) is no mindless bloodsucker. With the ability to hide in plain sight, it also shows (some) restraint in its appetites, no doubt holding out for the sanguinary opportunities of London Town.

Worse (for the crew), it thoroughly enjoys terrifying its victims before opening their veins. Far from the charming and debonair Draculs of yore, this Count is a real asshole, and Øvredal and Schut, Jr. go places not many modern horror movies do.

What quibbles there are to be had are minor (including the all-around complaint about murky CGI): Should a Man Of Science like Clemens be able to put two and two together when it comes to the undead bursting into flame in the sun? Maybe, but the guy's going through a lot. Are some of his procedures scientifically (and historically) dubious? Perhaps, but are vampires scientifically accurate?

It's also mildly annoying that Universal is releasing this in August. For while The Last Voyage of the Demeter will probably succeed on its own toothy merits, seeing it around Halloween would only have enhanced the experience.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar