The Last Voyage of the Demeter offers a mild dose of entertainment, provided you can accept two conditions: It is only one leg of a larger voyage, and both the origin and destination are far more compelling. As such, this tidbit will offer you little to care about. If you’re down for something so inconsequential and insubstantial, then Demeter is just the middling ball of blah you’ve been looking for.
Based on part of one chapter within Bram Stoker’s Dracula—no, I’m not making that up—Demeter tells of Dracula’s voyage from Transylvania to London. (In Coppola’s adaptation, this sequence gets wrapped up in about three whole minutes.) In a nutshell, he boards up a few giant crates of grub-ridden dirt, and uses one as his “coffin.” Somewhere along the way, the Count starts getting, well…bloodthirsty. Much like the Xenomoprh in Alien, ol’ Vlad starts picking off the Demeter’s crew, one screaming victim at a time.
Welp, that’s all the story you’ll need. Good night, everybody! #LYLAS *house lights come up*
Wait, you’re still here? Damn it—that means I have to keep going! Okay, fine. Have it your way.
Let’s break down the roster of characters you won’t care about, shall we? First, we have Mr. Clemens (Corey Hawkins), the ship’s doctor. He hitches a last-minute ride on the doomed ship, and becomes the most rational, modern member of the crew. Then there’s Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham), whose main function is to look and sound like Ser Davos from Game of Thrones. (“Hey! It’s that one guy, who played on that show!”) Toby (Woody Norman) is Davos’ precocious grandson, and one of the few characters worth rooting for. Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) serves as the grouchy first mate. His job is to sound like a major dickhead. On that front, he resoundingly succeeds.
Hey—I almost forgot about Dracula! I don’t feel too bad…so did the screenwriters! You see, the makers behind Demeter commit the sin of making a vampire movie with very little actual vampire in it. And, to a certain degree, I get why: They wanted this to be Jaws, or Alien. They wanted the unseen beast to stir our imaginations and terrify us, I guess. While this technique does supply the movie with its only source of suspense, it also, you know…sucks.
I’ll put it this way: Dracula’s only involved with this gory snooze cruise to wring a little extra box office. (Spoiler alert: That ploy did not work.) They could’ve subbed in any gnarly, growling CGI beast, and it would’ve been same difference. None of the character’s sinister charisma or fascinating complexities make it into the story. He doesn’t taunt or tantalize his victims. He doesn’t assume many forms. This is just a hungry monster who feels the need for feed. Demeter’s Dracula might be the most one-dimensional take on Stoker’s iconic character ever committed to film. (I’ll even include Leslie Nielsen’s version, for good measure.)
Okay, now let me carve out a little space to say a few nice things. Demeter is a good-looking film. “Handsome” sounds like something a fancy critic might say. The ocean-bound cinematography is killer. The special effects and makeup are solid. Hawkins is an engaging lead, if only his character were more compelling. That goes ditto for Aisling Franciosi, who gives her doomed stowaway a deep sadness that could’ve anchored a better movie. Finally, Cunningham’s mutton chops look nice and bushy. Whoever brushed those things on set did a fine job.
Still, none of that matters. To anyone familiar with Stoker’s book or Coppola’s movie, the Demeter’s tale is a foregone conclusion. Even worse, it’s sure to disappoint just about everyone: Devotees of Dracula will find this movie wholly uninspired. At the same time, nothing about it will inspire noobs to investigate any further. All this adds up to a movie adrift, lost in the creative doldrums.
119 min. R. On demand.