In the vampire classic “Dracula,” the story of how the eponymous vampire was shipped from Transylvania to London is only a few paragraphs long. “Scary Stories to tell in the Dark” director André Øvredal has now made a feature film out of this passage. In THE LAST JOURNEY OF THE DEMETER we are presented with a completely new side of the Blutsauer classic, which is, above all, very stylish.
OT: The Last Voyage of the Demeter (USA/UK/MLT/IT/DE 2023)
That’s what it’s about
End of the 19th century: A completely normal crossing awaits the crew of the Demeter. Numerous goods and animals are to be shipped from Transylvania to London. On board: the resolute Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) and the confident doctor Clemens (Corey Hawkins). Already in the harbor an observer announces trouble and leaves the crew before they leave. Because something evil has come to the Demeter. When Clemens finds the animals on board with their throats bitten out and a young, half-dead woman appears on the ship, the crew members suspect that something is wrong. Soon the disaster begins – and a bloodthirsty creature puts the crew in mortal fear and terror…
In the end they all end up at the big studios. This also applies to the Norwegian director André Øvredal, who, like many of his colleagues, has worked his way up from niche independent productions to larger-budget projects. However, he remained true to his genre preference. After films like “Troll Hunter” and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”, he got his hands on a double-digit million budget for the first time in 2019 and directed the horror episodic film “Scary Stories to tell in the Dark” with the support of Guillermo del Toro. Universal Pictures then gave almost twice as much money, which Øvredal used to film a passage from Bram Stoker’s world-famous “Dracula” novel that was only a few paragraphs long. The 45 million US dollars probably went primarily into the equipment, because “The Last Voyage of Demeter” can probably only be marketed to a broad audience through the vampire himself. On well-known ones leader The makers decided not to do so within the cast. This means that Demeter itself can be described as the main actress of the film with a clear conscience, who – in the best sense of the word – “plays” all the human crew members (who undoubtedly do a solid job) to the wall. Even Dracula, who André Øvredal rarely lets himself appear anyway. A good decision! The madness can only spread through the crew before the few characters left at the end finally have to compete against the vampire lord himself in a finale that is a little too lurid.
Clemens (Corey Hawkins) and Anna (Aisling Franciosi) already know that something is wrong on the Demeter.
If the marketing for “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” had completely dispensed with the origin of the story – after all, not everyone would know that the Demeter was once used to transport Dracula from Transylvania to London – the film would have been at least as good, if not can function even better. André Øvredal lets his atmospheric ship scarer feel like a typical one for a long time “A motley crew of people goes crazy and no one knows why.”-film that, according to the counting-rhyme principle, makes one person after the other go crazy. Even the cut throats of the animals on the Demeter could be explained in some way other than that they came from a vampire. The events of the first half hour could all have earthly origins. Still, “The Last Voyage of Demeter” takes a while to get going. The number of crew members is not too large. Basically, you only need to pay increased attention to five of them (including a young woman and a little boy). The rest is mostly sacrificial material for Dracula. With the exception of little Toby (Woody Norman) and ship’s doctor Clemens, the others have clear characterizations (the level-headed captain, the easily flustered navigation expert Wojcheck and the mysterious Anna, who knows more about the cargo than anyone else). However, this is not enough for a more in-depth character study.
“For a long time, André Øvredal makes his atmospheric ship horror look like a typical ‘a motley group of people go crazy and no one knows why’ film, which makes one person after the other go crazy based on the counting-rhyme principle.”
Little is known about the exact background of what made all these people what they are. They are primarily functional, but the eerie events on the ship drive them more and more together. Halfway through it becomes apparent that this really is everyone could become the vampire’s next victim. This increases the panic within the crew and the tension in the film. Just like Dracula’s initially only sporadic appearances. The bloodsucker, which initially remains in the shadows and is often only vaguely visible in the darkness, feeds itself from a weak zombie creature to a frightening human-bat hybrid, which gradually builds up in the background to become an ever greater threat. Meanwhile, in the foreground are the bite victims who have mutated into vampires, who turn against their own team and gradually define the “rules of the game” for the crew. who of Whatever was afflicted, went into a bloodlust. Recognizable by the discolored pupils. When sunrays hit the skin of the undead, they burst into flames. And so on… This bloodlust is remarkably lavish for a production of this size. André Øvredal makes full use of his film’s R rating or FSK-16 rating and not only lets the blood gush, but also causes his main characters to burn in agony.
Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham), Abrams (Chris Walley) and Clemens investigate the Demeter. What’s going on on board?
These spikes in violence may not make “The Last Voyage of Demeter” compelling Gorehounds interesting – the film is more of a horror shocker than a battle plate. But these scenes provide a nice contrast to what dominated the genre in the 1930s and 1940s Hammer HorrorFeeling that the film inevitably conjures up: a dark gothic aesthetic combined with gory details. Except that “The Last Voyage of Demeter” doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. Including a few TV series, the production studio has produced 147 different projects to date (also more recently, such as Veronika Franz’ and Severin Fiala’s horrifying patchwork study “The Lodge”). An active revival of the well-known horror icons took place with “Dracula Untold” and “The Mummy” without the direct involvement of Hammer Studios – unsuccessfully. Apart from feeling Dracula in “The Last Voyage of Demeter” in his pure, anything but darkly romantic portrayal of a vampire would also hardly be suitable to continue the tradition. Javier Botet (who specializes in nasty horror characters) embodies this Crooked Man from “Conjuring 2” or the tramp from “It – Chapter 1”) too much as a kind of winged demon; somewhere between Alien and Lord Voldemort. Even Øvredal himself described the film in advance as “’Alien’ on a ship in 1897”.
As a threat, this interpretation of Dracula undoubtedly still works. Nevertheless, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” has its real strengths in its setting and equipment. Production designer Edward Thomas (“Escape Room 1 and 2”) relies on a narrow, winding layout that quickly leads to a loss of overview below deck. In this scenario the permanent creation of would be jump scares a simple. But Øvredal largely avoids this and instead relies more on the resulting claustrophobic tension. The camera team from Roman Osin (“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”) and Tom Stern (“American Sniper”) Meanwhile, up on deck, he gets the most opulence out of the ship and its surroundings. The interspersed computer effects support a sense of haptics and mass. The blue-black filter and the high-contrast sharpness of the images even create a certain maritime feeling. All in all, a really successful application letter for André Øvredal to be able to try for even more budget in the future.
“As a threat, this interpretation of Dracula undoubtedly still works. Nevertheless, ‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ has its real strengths in its setting and features.”
Conclusion: Dracula takes London – the makers of “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” have created an atmospherically coherent ship horror that has to pick up speed at the beginning, but as the running time progresses it not only becomes really bloody, but also appropriately sparing with the appearances Dracula bypasses. However, this should split the minds in his physical representation.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” can be seen in USA cinemas from August 17, 2023.