The Last Voyage of the Demeter (Rated R)
By: Adam Freed
It should be of little surprise that one of the most profoundly chilling novels in literary history would make excellent fodder for a period specific film adaptation. Legendary Irish author Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula has been nourishing audiences' literary lust for gothic horror for well beyond a century. From this fertile ground comes The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a sneaky rendition of a lone chapter of Dracula, “Captain’s Log” which, in print, utilizes multiple character perspectives and the demoralizing and increasingly desperate entries into the recorded log of The Demeter, a cargo ship bound from Romania to England unknowingly carrying Dracula, the monsterous embodiment of hell on earth. This makes for an excellent premise to say the least.
On the shoulders of this giant concept stands Norwegian director Andre Ovredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark), who is tasked with providing visual life to this unforgettable slice of Stoker’s creation. To his credit Ovredal is wise enough to utilize the canonized gift he has been provided, yet isn’t able elevate any performances from his modest cast into the realm of being memorable. Ovredal cunningly captures the ship in a bottle claustrophobia on board The Demeter, a credit to the film’s production for creating a modestly sized ship rich in character and impressively tactile. The horrific irony for those on board the doomed vessel is that while impeded by nothing but horizon in all watery directions, night after night salvation slips continually out of reach.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter has the bones of what could be a terror classic, although the story lends itself to a more spartan approach than what is applied by Andrew Ovredal. The confines of the film’s single location would be much more effectively weaponized in a narrower presentation than the 118 minutes audiences are asked to digest. Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense classic Rope (1948) brilliantly establishes, presents and concludes a similarly devilish plot and a lone location in only 80 minutes. The numerous glories of Demeter are owed to the adherence to Bram Stoker’s immortal words. Conversely, the film's shortcomings reveal themselves in any deviation. Fans of Dracula lore should find their thirst temporarily satiated by The Last Voyage of the Demeter, yet not enough to forego the hunt eternally.
Target Score 6/10. There is plenty here for audiences to enjoy, yet maybe not enough to promote repeat viewings.