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.