The Last Voyage of the Demeter has been jokingly referred to as Dracula on a Boat. Which is accurate and hilarious. It isn’t quite getting the Morbius meme treatment but the potential is there. But. The trailers for Demeter teased a movie that looked far more interesting and dynamic than Morbius. And, let’s be real, the idea of “Dracula on a boat” is 100% something I want to see. Dracula anywhere. Dracula at the Circus. Dracula on New Year’s Eve. Dracula Buys a Used Car at the Honda Dealership. I’d watch all of those.
But the question remains, is The Last Voyage of the Demeter any good?
The good things about The Last Voyage of the Demeter
I thought Demeter did three things really well.
First, the cast. You don’t have anyone who is all that well known. Corey Hawkins was great as Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton. Liam Cunningham was Davos in Game of Thrones but most people probably haven’t seen the movies he’s been best in. David Dastmalchian is that guy you recognize as a supporting character in all kinds of things but hasn’t had the breakout starring role. And Aisling Franciosi is another Thrones alum yet still early in her career. And Woody Norman is a literal child but obviously very talented.
All of them bring great gravitas and energy and a very theater-like stage presence to the screen. Cunningham kind of stole the movie, I thought. But everyone was so charismatic that they carried what was a pretty weak script.
Second, atmosphere. I wouldn’t say Last Voyage of the Demeter has great cinematography— mostly because of the editing, but we’ll get to that later—but it certainly had atmosphere. And that, for me, goes a long way. You get to know the ship. Feel stuck at sea. There’s a sense of the foreboding, palpable, heaving darkness you get from really good gothic literature. That’s not easy to capture. Definitely one of the film’s strongest elements.
Lastly, Dracula’s design. It was cool. I think it probably could have been cooler. I didn’t have the same visceral reaction to it as I did to the Mother in Barbarian. But relative to other interpretations of Dracula, it was unique and had me excited every time he was on screen. Definitely had a creepy vibe to it that was nice. Except the editing kept ruining it.
The bad things about The Last Voyage of the Demeter
You may have picked up on this already but I kind of couldn’t stand the editing. I feel like it continuously limited the energy of scenes. Instead of letting us linger in a moment or a shot, the movie would cut. Over and over and over. Anytime I was like “Oh, that’s an interesting shot” I’d get to “inter—” then we’d cut to another shot. There are just a few moments where the camera gets to stay on an action and a moment for more than 5 seconds. Those were nice. But, overall, in the words of Terence Fletcher: not my tempo.
I was getting actively mad about it.
And that kind of led to issues I had with how most of the movie went.
One example. When Dracula has his first kill. He cuts this guy’s throat and knocks him down. Dude tries to crawl away. Dracula’s still weak and is also kind of crawling. It’s this terrific opportunity for a creepy, tension filled scene where they crawl after one another. But the shots, the editing, make it feel far more anti-climactic than it should have been. And that encapsulates pretty much every potentially excellent scene. The thing I kept saying to myself over and over was “That just…didn’t go how I’d hoped.” A lot of good concepts, good ideas, but the execution wasn’t for me. So instead of leaving the theater pleased or at least pleasantly surprised, I’m sitting here thinking about the wasted potential.
And then there is one major issue that I can’t get over.
The ugly things about The last Voyage of the Demeter
Usually I try to keep these mostly spoiler-free but this is going to be spoiler heavy. So don’t read on if you care about that.
At the end of Demeter, the remaining crew hatches a plan to sink the boat with Dracula on board, that way he can’t get to London and hurt countless other people. Cool. Good idea!
They know Dracula can’t come out during the day. They’ve watched two people infected by him erupt in fire due to sunlight. So you would imagine the plan would take place during the day, right? Spring a leak in the Demeter. Set it on fire for good measure. Get on the life boat and row row row to the nearest bit of land then figure it out from there. Even if Dracula wakes up, he can’t flee the ship. The sun would ignite him. It’s a total and complete checkmate (unless he can hold his breath for hours?).
But nope. For completely inexplicable reasons they decide the best way to go about this is to wait until night, force Dracula to reach the deck by a route they set for him, trap him, then sink the ship and flee. How does that go? Dracula does not follow their route. Then slaughters mostly everyone. Even when they trap him, he still manages to escape before the boat sinks. Terrible, awful, horrendous plan.
It gets worse.
The day before, Clemens and Anna discovered the crate Dracula had been sleeping in. He wasn’t there because he had already gone out to hunt. But…like…they knew exactly where he was. And they knew he doesn’t come out during the day. All they had to do the next day was go after Dracula while he slept. Whether that meant using all the guns they had. Or putting a bunch of other boxes on top of Dracula’s crate so he couldn’t get out. Or even hoisting it from the hold and onto the deck then opening it to the sunlight. OR JUST LEAVE IT IN THERE AND ABANDON SHIP DURING THE DAY.
The only possible argument for the staying aboard is that they weren’t close enough to the English coast and would be in a raft out at sea? But surely you’d rather risk being on the raft then trying to fight Dracula.
Maybe I missed a line of dialogue that would justify wasting the day and waiting until night? But as far as I can tell it’s just an egregious, inexplicable writing choice. It reads to me like they knew they needed/wanted to have the big climactic showdown and just hoped the audience wouldn’t think about how stupid the characters were being.
All the filmmakers had to do…ALL THEY HAD TO DO was not have the life boat come back after the cook tried to runaway. Cook flees. Dracula goes and gets him. Raft’s gone. Meaning the crew has no option but to swim or fight. Instead, the filmmakers bring the raft back. Have it as an option. Then don’t even end up using it.
I’m getting upset again.