Horror Movies

THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER. Save yourself if you can! [Review]

The majestic ship Demeter might have been cursed, and as soon as night falls, the beast begins to hunt.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

12 August 2023


Dozens of crates on board. Several weeks of travel. A standard transport from the Romanian coast to London. Leading the crew of about dozen is the experienced captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham). It’s his last voyage before well-deserved retirement. He has chosen his successor, the honest but overeager Wojchek (David Dastmalchian). Just before leaving port, Mr. Clemens (Corey Hawkins) boards the ship. A Cambridge-educated doctor dedicated to science and knowledge, he questions the supernatural and the existence of demons from the afterlife. Soon, we meet a stowaway passenger, and as they say, a woman on board brings bad luck. Then, for some reason, all the rats disappear. It’s an unsettling sign. The first victim with a bitten artery surprises everyone the same way. The majestic ship Demeter may have been cursed, and as soon as night falls, the beast begins to hunt. Save yourself if you can.

the Last Voyage of the Demeter Corey Hawkins Aisling Franciosi Liam Cunningham

The Last Voyage of the Demeter combines Bram Stoker’s 19th-century Dracula with horror conventions reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Alien aboard the Nostromo. In Andre Øvredal’s film, we are faced with a truly hopeless situation. The vast sea stretching beyond the horizon limits any chance of escape. The claustrophobic spaces of the ship themselves can evoke unease and fear. The treacherous weather conditions also pose a threat: heavy rains, towering waves, and powerful winds that, with a bit of carelessness, could throw anyone overboard. A maritime journey is already a challenge, requiring a strong character and the belief that there’s nothing left to lose. The tempting motivation is surely the bonus for successful and punctual cargo transportation. And with each day of delay, there are fewer silver coins in the purse. Nobody doubts, from the ship’s cook to the captain, that haste comes at a cost.

Øvredal’s film stands out in that the crew members aren’t just cannon fodder for Dracula’s bloody attacks; each future victim carries some history and ambition. Arriving in the grand port of London is meant to be an existential restart for some, a moment of respite for others, or the start of an entirely new journey. The director also weaves in a worldviews debate in line with the film’s theme and changing times, between the rationalist Clemens and the spiritually inclined Olgaren (Stefan Kapičić). However, it might turn out that both a shotgun and a necklace with a crucified Christ are equally ineffective against Dracula. Demeter offers the right dose of carnage, but with multifaceted, non-indifferent characters.

Larsen Martin Furulund dracula Javier Botet in The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Daytime scenes serve as short interludes between the covered night and the gently moonlit majority of the film. The Last Voyage of the Demeter will work well either seen in a theater or, if at home, only after dark—when the predator comes to life. The creators could have been more imaginative in the execution of killings, and Dracula could have pursued his victims in a less repetitive manner. Andre Øvredal knows (following the path set by Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg in Jaws) that the unknown is the scariest, and that a disturbing close-up on a detail invokes more fear than a full picture. A slimy hand, pointed ears, blood-dripping fangs—our imagination will guide us in the right direction.

the Last Voyage of the Demeter dracula javier botet

If The Last Voyage of the Demeter excels in any aspect, it’s certainly in its sound design. The creaking deck, the sound of wind passing through the sails, the rustling of ropes rubbing against the ship, or the irregular thumping of waves against the hull—sometimes more subtly, sometimes more prominently—work excellently to create a grim, dense, suffocating atmosphere. I’m not entirely convinced that Demeter will induce nightmares of the bloodthirsty prince of darkness in viewers. However, it might reinforce the fear of setting out on the open sea.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Cinema took a long time to give us its greatest masterpiece, which is Brokeback Mountain. However, I would take the Toy Story series with me to a deserted island. I pay the most attention to animations and the festival in Cannes. There is only one art that can match cinema: football.

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