Dracula was one of the first big horror film successes to come out of Hollywood, preceding even the use of horror as a genre term. Released on Valentine’s Day, Dracula was originally sold as a gothic romance film, though it has since become an iconic staple in the horror genre. This year alone has seen both the release of Renfield and The Last Voyage of the Demeter in attempts to find a new angle to view the story. While Renfield focused on Dracula’s abused assistant, The Last Voyage of the Demeter is entirely about the portion of the story the original 1931 film skipped over. While this does mean the ending is somewhat predictable, there are still some well-executed sequences of suspense likely to satisfy horror fans.
Based on a single chapter from Bram Stoker’s novel, The Last Voyage of the Demeter follows the ship which unknowingly transported Dracula from a port in Bulgaria to London. The voyage is led by Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham), though we join the ship through the perspective of a doctor named Clemens (Corey Hawkins) who is desperate for the work. Although Clemens is given the opportunity to prove himself as a sailor, the cargo they are transporting threatens the safety of everyone aboard the Demeter. When a woman named Anna (Aisling Franciosi) is found buried in dirt within the ship’s cargo, she is revealed as the slave of the vampire Dracula (Javier Botet), who is also amongst the shipment.
Many have noted the similarities in the story structure of The Last Voyage of the Demeter and Alien, though the time periods and settings are vastly different. The plotting of a monstrous threat in an isolated location is hardly a new trope for the horror genre, and this leads to some truly terrifying moments. At the same time, there is an inevitability to much of the narrative, given the well-known story that this one leads to. Even those who have never read the source material and have no familiarity with this portion of the narrative are bound to know where this is heading.
Although The Last Voyage of the Demeter has an inevitable resolution, the execution of the vampire attack sequences still contains an element of terror missing from the sub-genre for decades. Perhaps because the Twilight franchise de-fanged the myth of the vampire, I wasn’t expecting the threat of the creature to be as terrifying as director André Øvredal was able to make them. The way the film is shot is also beautiful, recalling the large-scale spectacle the genre has been capable of in the past. In short, the story may not be groundbreaking, but the old-school style of filmmaking is commendable and elevates what could have been a completely forgettable film in less competent hands.
The Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of The Last Voyage of the Demeter contains three ways to view the film, including the high-definition disc that highlights the spectacular technical aspects of the filmmaking. There is also a DVD copy and a code for the digital copy. The special features included on the disc are highlighted by a director’s commentary track, which also includes producer Bradley J. Fischer. There is also a making-of featurette, another about the reimagination of the iconic character of Dracula. There is also additional footage, including deleted scenes and an alternative opening sequence.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Special Features: 6/10