The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)


It seems like a no-brainer to write a movie about one of the most creepy chapters in the iconic novel, Dracula, in which an unseen menace stalks and murders members of the crew on his voyage to England. This film has a ton of potential and terrific creature special effects, but isn’t what it could have been with another twenty minutes added to the plot.


The Demeter is about to set sail for England, bearing precious cargo. A rich benefactor has paid them a large amount of money to pack a dozen crates into their hold, but one of the crew men spots the insignia on it and gets off the ship at once. He insists that family is “evil” and refuses to risk his life to transport their cargo. Desperate for a replacement, Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) hires on Clemens (Corey Hawkins) at the last minute, a young African doctor struggling to make his way in the world. It takes Clemens some time to get his sea legs, and not everyone wants him on board, but soon more nefarious things start to happen. One of the crates falls open to expose the emaciated and ununconscious Anna (Aisling Franciosi). Clemens hurries her to the sick bay to tend her, even though some of the crew are superstitious and want to toss her overboard. She is curiously lacking in blood and requires transfusions.


Not all is right on the Demeter. They find the ship’s dog brutally slain, followed by all the livestock. Crew members wind up dead or missing. People catch glimpses of a monster on the upper decks under a full moon. Eventually, they realize a dark force is among them… and if they don’t do something about it, he will slaughter them all long before they reach land…


I really wanted to like this film, since it dares to do what few have done before it, and devote any significant amount of time to one of Dracula’s best chapters, but the characters are wooden and one-dimensional. It does not build them up in any way that makes them meaningful, and it squanders its main character. It’s forty-five minutes before we hear Clemens’ story, and we should have seen it sooner. Show us he’s a doctor run out of a hospital because of his skin color, give him dreams about a fresh start and a new life somewhere else, make us root for him! The same could be said of the rest of the crew, none of which are memorable other than the captain and his very young son. They needed more meaningful moments, interactions, and personalities, but most of them are just vampire bait. Anna has an incredibly promising plot that goes nowhere (why no flashbacks or emotional investment into her story, as Dracula's human blood bag?).


The aesthetics of this movie are terrific; it’s extremely atmospheric, and most of it was filmed using practical special effects and makeup, on the very talented “creature/monster actor” Javier Botet. It feels like being in the 1800s on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Some of the scenes are extremely scary and well-done, such as a character realizing the creature he fears is in the same room with him where he thought he was safe. And the last twenty minutes are spectacular. If the entire film had been as good as the finale, in which we catch a glimpse of Victorian London, it would have had me by the throat the entire time. But… the logic here is absent, and that hurts the script.


For example, in one scene the crew theorizes that Dracula is feeding off them as a blood source, and that he can’t afford to waste any of their lives; and then in the next scene, we see him literally ripping people’s throats out and spilling (wasting) blood all over the walls and deck. They also know whatever is hunting them is nocturnal, but only ever try to find him / expose his hiding place at night, instead of in daylight. Stupid! The only “Christian” character (the cook, who won’t feed people who take the Lord’s name in vain) turns out to be a coward and a scoundrel, but other characters try to fend off Dracula with religious icons (crosses, prayers, and by renouncing him). It lacks the spiritual presence of the original novel, in which Dracula is defeated by people of faith.


There are some good horror moments and twists, and one loss feels poignant; Botet delivers an excellent non-speaking performance as a soulless fiend, but I felt the absence of the human Dracula keenly. Their makeup and prosthetics are top notch, taking Dracula in more of a Nosferatu direction than usual. Given the short running time, it’s a film that could have afforded more character development and interactions. It drags in a few places, and does not earn its moments of gore; they are just there for shock value. I am not sorry I watched it, despite the carnage, but it’s not as good as it should have been.


Language: One use of ass, several of hell, and bloody. “Jesus” and “God” are used as exclamations.


Sexual Content: References to brothels; a child says he knows what a brothel is, it’s where you pay women to take off their knickers; we learn one man likes cavorting with prostitutes.



Extreme and bloody. Animals are shown ripped apart, including the beloved ship’s dog. Men have their throats ripped out or slashed open, spewing blood as they stagger around the deck; Dracula bashes another man’s skull against the deck with bloody results; we see blood all over the deck and on the sails; infected humans burst into flames when exposed to sunlight (one flaming man sets another alight); an infected man bashes his face against a door; a child is bitten.

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