IMG via Universal Pictures

Despite all of its initial promise and ambition, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is little more than yet another Dracula adaptation that is all washed up.

TOP 5 THINGS ABOUT “The Last Voyage of the Demeter”


5. The Hook

Adapting a single chapter of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula, The Captain’s Log” into a feature film of its own is such a strong idea.

In the novel, Dracula travels from his home of Transylvania to his new residence at Carfax Abbey in London by stowing himself and several boxes of dirt from his home aboard the Demeter. By the time the Demeter arrives in London, everyone aboard the ship has been murdered, and all that remains is the captain’s account of the horrors the crew incurred while aboard.

Director André Øvredal has compared The Last Voyage of the Demeter’s expanding of this premise to Ridley Scott’s Alien, and he’s absolutely correct. The story’s hook is immediately loaded with tension, suspense, and incredibly high stakes, all while confined to a central location. The hook is immediately reminiscent of classics of the science-fiction horror genre, such as Alien or even John Carpenter’s The Thing, and is brimming with such potential.



4. The Longform Suspense

The promise of the hook makes the story structure of “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” all the more frustrating in its squandering.

Some versions of this film had been in development at various studios with various talents attached since 2005, and the end result very much feels like something that went through so many different drafts and rewrites that the forest is very much lost for the trees. Especially in the second and third acts, the film’s narrative structure feels imposed unnaturally upon it, with things just kind of happening or characters suddenly making huge declarations of intent out of nowhere rather than their arcs coalescing into natural breaking points.

But one notable exception to this fumbling of storytelling is the film’s first act, which is easily The Last Voyage of the Demeter at its strongest. Opening the movie with a title card and prologue, which concretely lays out the context of the story, that the Demeter will arrive with no survivors and with Dracula onboard, allows the film to milk the story for all the suspense it is worth in the opening act. Director André Øvredal has an absolute ball with this, crafting nearly every element of the audience’s introduction to the ship as a location to emphasize the Dracula-sized Sword of Damocles dangling over the characters’ heads, and it works like a charm.



3. Dracula’s Design and Performance

Cinema loves “Dracula.”

From the medium’s earliest days, filmmakers were drawn to Bram Stoker’s monolithic horror novel like Moths to a Flame. But Dracula is unique in that not only have there been dozens upon dozens of films based on the book, but there have also been many bona fide classic adaptations, each uniquely masterful in its own way. From F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu in 1922, to Tod Browning’s Dracula in 1931, to Terence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula in 1958, to Werner Herzog’s Noferatu the Vampyre in 1979, to Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992, some of the greatest filmmakers of all time have all left their distinct mark on the character and story of Dracula.

There’s something about the density of the novel’s story and the versatility of the character that has led to so many filmmakers being able to mine different elements of the story to such potent results. If anything, The Last Voyage of the Demeter’s central hook (of honing in one specific chapter of the story rather than adapting the whole thing) gave it the perfect platform to stand on its own two feet. And the design for Dracula does stand on its own two feet: portrayed by Javier Botet and designed by Göran Lundström, Dracula in this film is a monstrous creation that feels notably different and distinct from anything that has come before it.

Sadly, despite the exquisite design work and the unnerving physicality of the performance, The Last Voyage of the Demeter seems to view Dracula less as a character and more as just a blunt instrument to utilize for narrative purposes. Fundamentally, Dracula could be replaced with just about any other creature, and it would make little to no difference in the film. Ultimately, it’s a fantastic design and a genuinely stellar performance, but one that feels like it is never fully embraced by the film’s story and leaves so much potential untapped.



2. The Production Design

In keeping with praising the look and texture of the film, the production design of “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” as a whole, by designer Edward Thomas, is nothing short of astounding.

The period details are punctuated, heightening the film’s overall atmosphere in conjunction with Øvredal’s direction and Tom Stern’s moody cinematography.

The set for the Demeter itself is excellent and feels like it was engineered to excellently serve the narrative, keeping audiences anchored in knowing exactly where they are onboard the ship. Sadly, this immensely admirable work is all but marred entirely by the horrendous editing of the film. What starts as a general over-tightening (cutting too quickly to allow beats to have fitting resonance or impact) develops into work that fails to establish geography, maintain spatial awareness, or even maintain screen direction. The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a story about characters trapped and edging ever closer to their inevitable fate, so it would have benefitted greatly from an edit that was willing to lock its audience into an exacting sense of both time and place alongside these characters. Sadly, it doesn’t, and subsequently squanders the feats of ingenuity accomplished by contributors such as Göran Lundström, Edward Thomas, and the all-too-game cast.



1. Øvredal’s Direction

If you don’t know the name André Øvredal, you should. As a director, Øvredal has made a name for himself over the past decade, delivering supernaturally-tinged horror films rooted in classical horror filmmaking and suspense.

From 2016’s The Autopsy of Jane Doe to 2019’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Øvredal’s films have all had a palpable energy, atmosphere, and tone to them. Driven by relatable characters with simplistic yet effective arcs, who face off against a supernaturally evil force that doubles as a metaphorical embodiment of their greatest fears, Øvredal makes taut and affecting horror films that have a real meat-and-potatoes sense of robust efficiency to them.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter certainly starts this way, with Øvredal and cinematographer Tom Stern crafting a visual language that feels like a natural evolution from Øvredal’s prior works. It immediately welcomes audiences in foreboding fashion, with a visual language inspired by everything from Browning’s Dracula to Spielberg and Amblin’s own Close Encounters of the Third Kind




Ultimately, The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a perplexing and frustrating film affair. There are joys to be had within it and much great work to be appreciated, but as it stands, so much of the film is marred by some deeply misplaced editing choices that feel at least partially dictated by studio notes to keep the runtime down and reshoots to placate test audiences (that is literally the only viable explanation for the atrocity that is the sequel-teasing final minute-and-a-half of this movie).

It’s a film that has more than ten times the runtime to devote to this story than that of the Demeter sequences in films such as Murnau’s Nosferatu and Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, and yet it captures not even a fraction of their palpable terror.