The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023) poster

The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)


UK/Germany/USA. 2023.


Director – André Øvredal, Screenplay – Zak Olkewicz & Bragi Schut, Jr., Screen Story – Bragi Schut, Jr., Based on The Log of the Demeter from the Novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, Producers – Bradley J. Fischer, Mike Medavoy & Arnold W. Messer, Photography – Tom Stern, Music – Bear McCreary, Visual Effects Supervisor – Brad Parker, Visual Effects/Animation – Rise Visual Effects Studio (Supervisor – Andreas Giesen), Visual Effects – Instinctual (Supervisor – Alan Latteri), Jellyfish Pictures Ltd. (Supervisor – Ingo Putze), MPC (Supervisor – William Garrett), Onyx Visual Effects (Supervisor – John Stewart) & SSVFX, Special Effects Supervisor – Uli Nefzer, Dracula/Nosferatu Creature Effects – EffexStudios (Supervisor – Goran Lundstrom), Makeup Effects – Twilight Creations (Designer – Jorn Seifert), Production Design – Edward Thomas. Production Company – Storyworks Productions Ltd./Studio Babelsberg/Phoenix Pictures/Wise Owl Media.


Corey Hawkins (Clemens), Aisling Franciosi (Anna), Liam Cunningham (Captain Eliot), David Dastmalchian (Wojchek), Woody Norman (Toby), Chris Walley (Abrams), Stefan Kapicic (Olgaren), Jon Jon Briones (Joseph), Martin Furulund (Larsen), Nikolai Nikolaeff (Petrofsky), Javier Botet (Dracula/Nosferatu), Rudolf Danielewicz (Old Romani Wiseman), Noureddine Farihi (One-Eyed Sailor)


In August 1897, the ship Demeter crashes on the shores of Whitby, England. Among the wreckage the authorities find the log of its captain Eliot. This tells how the ship departed Varna, Romania bound for London with a cargo of crates. Clemens signed on as ship’s doctor, along with six other crew. Soon after they set sail, strange things began to occur as the animals on board were found slaughtered and then crewmembers began to disappear. A mystery Romanian girl Anna was found inside one of the crates and Clemens insisted on nursing her back to health. As more of the crew disappeared or were killed, the survivors determined to fight back against that which hid on the ship – the entity known as Dracula that feasts on human blood.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) is a classic work that casts a vast shadow over the horror genre and the Vampire Film. There have been numerous film adaptations and other works that sequelise, modernise and parody Dracula – for which see Dracula Films. One of the oddities of the 2022-3 period has been a series of films that take elements or supporting characters from the book and give them their own films. This period also saw House of Darkness (2022) and The Invitation (2022) based around Dracula’s Brides, as well as the more comedic Renfield (2023) based around the character of the asylum lunatic who is devoted to Dracula.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is, as the credits tell us, based on The Log of the Demeter from Dracula. This is not even a full chapter in the book – it is a fragment of Chapter 7 and runs to 2000 words, about 1½ times the length of this review. Certainly, the film is reasonably faithful to what transpires in the The Log of the Demeter, mentioning the dates, places passed on the journey and names of the crew that Stoker does. It is just that the film adds a whole bunch of other stuff – there is no mention of the ship’s doctor, the girl Anna or the cabin boy Toby in the book. Nor does Stoker have the crew make a determined effort to fight back. For that matter, the crew don’t even work out what it is that they are facing, while in the book there are no survivors. The final scene of the film with the lone survivor setting out to hunt Dracula also seems by implication to pretend that the Crew of Light (Van Helsing, Quincey, Holmwood and Jonathan) don’t exist.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter has been in development for twenty years. There has been a large number of directors attached to the project including Marcus Nispel, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003); David Slade of Hard Candy (2005) fame; Neil Marshall, best known for The Descent (2005); Robert Schwentke of The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) and various Divergent sequels; and Stefan Ruzowitsky of Anatomy (2000), with stars that include Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Noomi Rapace and Viggo Mortensen.

The film finally ends up helmed by Norwegian director André Øvredal who had a word-of-mouth hit with his second film, the Found Footage effort The Troll Hunter (2010). Øvredal subsequently went on to make The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), the Guillermo Del Toro scripted Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) and Mortal (2020), as well as produced the horror film Umma (2022).

Clemens (Corey Hawkins) and Anna (Aisling Franciosi) in The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)
Ship’s doctor Clemens (Corey Hawkins) and Romanian girl Anna (Aisling Franciosi)
Javier Botet as Dracula/Nosferatu in The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)
Javier Botet as Dracula/Nosferatu

The finished film emerges okay, although you cannot help but feel that the endless script revisions and director and cast reshuffles have progressively wrung much of the potential out of it. Still what we have is a work of great mood. Almost the entire film takes place in dark indigo blue lit up only by the occasional lantern and the odd scene that is set in daylight (mainly it would seem to feature scenes when infected crewmembers burst into flame when exposed to it). The sets, particularly those of the hold, look dank and exude a palpable sense of gloom and dread. The drawback of this is that while the creation of mood is impeccable, I was straining after watching the film to think of any moments that left my jaw dropping or that jolted me out of my seat.

The film seems indebted to Nosferatu (1922), which offered the most substantial depiction of the Demeter scenes from Dracula prior to this. Many of the scenes with Dracula popping up seem to echo if not be modelled on set-ups from Nosferatu. To this extent, it would seem that Øvredal and co have modelled the look of Dracula on Nosferatu’s Count Orlock – throughout the credits the creation is even called ‘Dracula/Nosferatu’. Although what the bald emaciated figure with yellow glowing eyes resembles more so that Orlock is Barlow from the tv version of Salem’s Lot (1979).

This is where my quibble with The Last Voyage of the Demeter started to come in. We get a very Nosferatu/Barlow-alike incarnation of Dracula but this feels more like a creation of modern movies than any adherence to the book. Stoker is no help. He offers absolutely no descriptions of what it is the crew of the Demeter are facing – it is just a mysterious something that keeps picking off their number but is never actually encountered in person. That said, Stoker also has Dracula able to pass as a charming and perfectly polite gentleman and mingle with respectable society of the day elsewhere in the book. It seems a hard sell trying to believe that the film’s tall, crepuscular, pasty-skinned creature with glowing eyes, wings and giant-sized webbed hands would ever be able to pass itself off in polite society, let alone even as human being – even if the final scenes of the film do show it dressed in a suit and top hat.

Trailer here

Actors: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Themes: , , ,