Review: The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Score: C

Director: Andre Ovredal

Cast: Corey Hawkins, David Dastmalchian, Liam Cunningham, Aisling Franciosi

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rated: R

The crew of the Demeter is doomed. And so it seems, is the film about them. The script has been floating around ever since Francis Ford Coppola's take on Dracula became a massive hit more than 30 years ago. Mediocre directors like Robert Schwentke and Marcus Nispel tried over the years to make it happen. But even with the likes of Ben Kingsley and Jude Law attached, it never took off. Unfortunately, it's come at the worst possible time in the studio system, when CGI has thoroughly overtaken practical effects.

You see, The Last Voyage of the Demeter has a creature problem. The film has excellent atmosphere. And when it confines Dracula to the shadows, it's an ominous presence. But when "the beast" is flying around the top deck ripping out throats in an eruption of digital blood, it's simply not scary. Using newer technology might be easier, but it fails the project. A film like this, even if it's out of step with modern horror, should have embraced its roots as a Hammer Film. The British studio made a name for itself in the '50s and '60s with a series of cheaply produced horror movies, many of which were reboots of dusty monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy. They promised new spins on old tales and plenty of gore, and they delivered.

By contrast, this film has few scares. One sequence in the middle, when a previously attacked crew member begins hunting the captain's grandchild, shows what could have been. The film's excellent makeup, production design and score come together for something truly terrifying. It just makes its too-dark, rain-soaked climax all the more disappointing. The cast ranges from solid to terrific, but there's barely any character development. That's just fine for a story like this. But it sticks out more when the film's primary goal - to scare us - isn't achieved.

It would be an overstatement to say The Last Voyage of the Demeter sucks. But, despite all the gore, it fails to draw blood.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.