Dracula: Damp and Loving It

‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ subverts kitschy expectations of “Dracula on a boat”

We are all in a sea of wonders. Could we have ever imagined the possibility of a new Dracula film in 2023 set at sea? The Last Voyage of the Demeter is exactly that. Oceans are now vampiric killing fields. 

In a summer ripe with hits bombarding cineplexes across the world, a labor of love adaptation of a single chapter from the 19th century classic horror novel registers low on the interest meter, honestly. 

Directed by: André Øvredal
Written by: Bragi F. Schut, Zak Olkewicz, based on a chapter of Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Starring: Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian 
Running time: 118 mins

But then you take a look at the pedigree of its director André Øvredal. He directed indie darling The Autopsy of Jane Doe and more recently helmed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Suddenly you can imagine the children of the night and the music they might make.  

Adapted from the seventh chapter of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ titled “The Captain’s Log,” the film fleshes out what amounts to only 30 pages in the novel, adding characters and filling in implied occurrences on a Russian ship named The Demeter bound for London from Romania. One of those new characters is Clemens (Corey Hawkins), a Cambridge-educated doctor, fallen on hard times because he was denied practice for being Black. 

Clemens earns himself a spot on the crew and slowly endears himself to its captain (Liam Cunningham). That is, until strange occurrences begin happening at night and crew members start dying. A lot of accusations fly around among the crew. What they don’t know is that their cargo includes crates filled with soil from Count Dracula’s homeland and the infamous vampire himself, who emerges at night to feed. At least they’re not on the Diamond Princess

Paced as best as a retelling of a 100-year-old story can be, ‘Demeter’ makes up for being a bit overlong with great creature effects and surprisingly gruesome kills. Impassioned turns by Hawkins (The Tragedy of Macbeth) and Aisling Franciosi (Game of Thrones) as Anna, a stowaway on the ship from Romania who knows what the crew is facing, keep this thing rolling. Casting the character actor of our lifetimes, David Dastmalchian, as a gruff member of the crew named Wojchek also doesn’t hurt. 

Those hoping for another meme dream realized will likely be disappointed that this is a serious take on Dracula and not a Snakes on a Motherfucking Plane, tongue-in-cheek thriller. Dracula is indeed on a boat, so you can crack your Nosferrytu and Vlad the Sailor jokes all you want. But make no mistake — Dracula is here to suck your blood old-school style.  

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Pablo Gallaga

Pablo Gallaga is a former video blogger and recapper for Television Without Pity (RIP). You can probably find him at an Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. He will thwart your alien invasion by uploading a rudimentary computer virus to your mothership using a 1996 Apple Powerbook and no Wi-Fi.

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