Dracula: Voyage of the Demeter
Photograph: Studiocanal
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The Last Voyage of the Demeter

3 out of 5 stars

This bloodthirsty Dracula cruise has just about enough sea legs to pass muster


Time Out says

Our undying fascination with vampires stretches across millennia and continents. Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that every little detail in Bram Stoker’s epistolary novel Dracula would wind up, much like the Star Wars saga, expanded into its own universe. In the last year alone, we’ve hada  comedy riff on the Bram Stoker legend in Renfield, and a sneaky Jonathan Harker name-drop on the list in The Invitation.

Now The Last Voyage of the Demeter spins a short newspaper clipping and a captain’s log from a mid-novel chapter of Dracula into an Alien-like haunted house of jeopardy movie set at sea. Directed by Troll Hunter’s André Øvredal, it depicts the fateful voyage of The Demeter, captained by Game of Thrones actor Liam Cunningham’s Eliot. Aboard is a cargo of dirt-laden crates that have been all-too keenly offloaded by a group of villagers. It turns out they've been in thrall to the throat-biting monster that’s demanded regular sacrifices from their creepy castle-adjacent hamlet for centuries. 

Straight Outta Compton’s Dr Dre, Corey Hawkins, plays Clemens, a very different type of doctor. He makes poor life choices, talking his way onto the bat/man-smuggling ship after being professionally overlooked because of his skin colour. This social commentary is sadly anaemic, however.

The presence of the always unnerving David Dastmalchian (The Boogeyman) as a fellow crewman should also have been a red flag for Clemens, as with the unexpected addition of The Nightingale star Aisling Franciosi as a fang-scarred stowaway. Pretty soon, the crew – including an annoying kid played by Woody Norman, much better in C’mon C’mon – are being picked off one by one.

The ship is an Alien-like haunted house of seaborne jeopardy 

While Demeter doesn't get close to matching Francis Ford Coppola’s operatic Dracula, to which this film forms an interquel, there is some great throat-gouging action. Set designer Edward Thomas’s 19th-century schooner is also impressive, as is Göran Lundström’s half-starved creature design for a shadow-lurking spectre. It’s a shame that over-reliance on CGI squanders some of Slender Man actor Javier Botet’s freaky physical work, as is the curse on far too many contemporary horror movies.

Did we really need this Dracula footnote to set sail at all? Perhaps not, but while Øvredal’s expansion on the world isn’t as fun as the grim fables from which it draws blood, it still has some bite.

In US theaters now. UK release date TBC.

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