“Excuse me sir, but can you please deliver this load of unmarked wooden crates to London for me?”
Well, that’s how I imagine the conversation went down that set the cargo ship Demeter on a perilous, possibly doomed voyage across some wild European seas.
Based on a single chapter extracted from the famous Bram Stoker novel Dracula (1897), Dracula – Last Voyage of the Demeter (directed by Andre Ovredal) is set almost entirely onboard the wooden tall ship as it makes its way from Carpathia to London with a hull full of cargo and an unwitting crew of nine. The movie kicks off at the conclusion to the journey with the discovery of the abandoned ship washing ashore in violent storm. Abandoned that is… except for the captain’s log which seems to sound an ominous warning to its readers and becomes the basis for the partially-narrated story from this point on.
The story picks up four weeks prior as the unremarkable-looking cargo is being paraded through town before being loaded on to the Demeter. It is on the bustling loading docks where the ship’s captain, Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham) is selecting a sea-worthy crew from a bunch of local seamen that Clemens (Corey Hawkins) is ‘eventually’ selected to join the crew. As the ships sets sail to the rather un-nerving goodbye message from locals, “Good Luck. May you see the end of your journey” seems to suggest all is not what it seems.
If you’re worried about this movie being a slow burn, don’t fear as it’s not too long into the journey that all the livestock onboard is mysteriously slaughtered, and an apparent stowaway, Anna (Aisling Franciosi) is discovered by Clemens who declares “Evils is onboard. Powerful Evil”. The experienced ocean-goers amongst the crew are eventually convinced something is definitely not right when even the ships ever-present rat infestation goes missing.
From this point on the movie becomes a story of survival for the crew as the creature that feeds on their blood at night, Dracula (Javier Botet), begins to pick them off one by one. Wondering why the creature was running and disappearing after each dis-membering, Anna proclaims “It was not running, it was rationing”. Some of the attack scenes border on the disturbing and are definitely not for the faint hearted.
While many of the “popcorn-spilling jump” moments in the movie are seemingly intentionally telegraphed (basically, you can see them coming a mile off), the timing is such that it still had the audience jumping out of their seats and audibly gasping. As an old-school fan of the creature-feature, I often find myself disappointed with modern interpretations… but not time. If you engage in the story with the understanding that ‘Dracula is a vampire, but not all vampires are Dracula’ you can almost instantly disengage yourself from some of the more recent disenfranchised vampire movies. In a genre that has been light-washed in recent years, this is a neo-classical portrayal of Dracula in all his brutal and bloody glory.
As I left the cinema walking through the car park on a dark and stormy evening (similar to those experienced in the movie), I couldn’t help but look up, then around, picking up my pace as walked towards my car, heart beat audible. That’s the sign of a great horror flick, the realisation that your fears control you, you do not control your fears.
Movie Review By Lindsay Bulach