Universal Pictures’ “Last Voyage of the Demeter,” based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” fails to capture the dark magic of classic movie monsters. The film follows a ship named Demeter as it travels from Romania to England in the 1800s, but the logic of what happens on board and the portrayal of Dracula himself are lacking. Despite a talented cast, the movie falls short of delivering lasting chills. “Last Voyage of the Demeter” premieres in US theaters on August 11. Dan Heching reported
Universal Pictures prides itself as the home of the iconic movie monsters, such as James Whale’s 1931 film “Frankenstein” and Bela Lugosi’s portrayal of “Dracula.” However, the studio’s recent attempts to capture the essence of these classic creatures have been unsuccessful, as demonstrated by the disappointing 2017 film “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise. This week’s release, “Last Voyage of the Demeter,” though occasionally intriguing, fails to deliver any lasting thrills.
Based on the eerie elements of Bram Stoker’s renowned epistolary novel “Dracula,” the film can be commended for its clarity in storytelling. It follows the journey of the Demeter, a vessel transporting mysterious cargo from Romania to England in the 1800s. However, the narrative is hindered by glaring logical flaws that prevent complete immersion in the story.
For instance, as the crew members are progressively killed off in brutal ways during the nights, one cannot help but question what precautions they take during the day to prevent further unfortunate events.
It becomes evident that the problems only arise in the darkness, seemingly originating from the enigmatic and weighty boxes in the cargo hold. While the group does search the ship and open the soil-filled boxes, their exploration is limited, despite one box containing a sinister cane and another housing a revived individual who raves about the “evil” onboard. Curious.
However, one of the significant missed opportunities in this film lies in the portrayal of Dracula. The character lacks the depth and complexity found in Stoker’s novel, as well as the captivating and eccentric humanity portrayed by Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 masterpiece, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” which has stood the test of time. In “Last Voyage of the Demeter,” Dracula is reduced to a winged nocturnal demon, and the film itself becomes merely a creature feature, despite a genuinely frightening and audacious mid-movie sequence.
Additionally, the film fails to fully capitalize on the potential for captivating visual aesthetics and Gothic occult elements inherent in the Dracula lore, as exemplified in the aforementioned Coppola adaptation. Although a sea fog sequence towards the end may seem excessive, it provides a refreshing atmosphere amidst the somewhat lackluster proceedings.
Directed by Norwegian filmmaker André Øvredal, known for the impressive 2010 film “Troll Hunter,” “Last Voyage of the Demeter” features Corey Hawkins (best known as Dr. Dre in “Straight Outta Compton”) as the capable hero who serves as a doctor, sailor, and even a surrogate father figure to the sole child onboard. Despite Hawkins’ commendable performance and a committed cast, including David Dastmalchian (Polka-Dot Man in “The Suicide Squad”) and Liam Cunningham (of “Game of Thrones” fame), the movie gradually descends into a series of predictable sequences with eerie noises and ill-fated individuals who fall victim to blood-sucking.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” premieres on August 11 in US theaters. It carries an R rating.