“Last Voyage of the Demeter,” also known to some around the globe as “Dracula: Voyage of the Demeter,” hit the screens in 2023, bringing a fresh dose of supernatural horror. Directed by André Øvredal and penned by Bragi F. Schut Jr. along with Zak Olkewicz, the movie takes a deep dive into one of the eeriest chapters of Bram Stoker’s legendary 1897 novel “Dracula,” specifically “The Captain’s Log.” Starring Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, and David Dastmalchian, the film unfolds the harrowing journey of the Demeter’s crew as they navigate from Transylvania to London, all while trying to dodge the deadly grasp of the iconic vampire Dracula, brought to life by Javier Botet.
The road to bringing this chilling piece of “Dracula” lore to the big screen was anything but smooth. The idea initially sparked when Schut Jr. knocked out a spec script, inspired by a connection to the making of the 1992 “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” However, the project got stuck in development limbo for a good two decades. It wasn’t until Amblin Partners snapped up the rights in October 2019 that things started to look up, with Øvredal announced to direct. By 2021, the cast was set, and filming kicked off in Berlin on June 30, stretching through to Malta and wrapping up on October 1, with some scenes also captured in the historical Mdina.
Despite the buzz, when “Last Voyage of the Demeter” sailed into theaters on August 11, 2023, courtesy of Universal Pictures, it hit rocky waters. The film, aiming to scare and thrill, ended up with mixed reviews from critics and managed to pull in just $21.7 million worldwide on a budget of $45 million, sadly marking it as a box-office flop.
Still, for all its troubles, the film carves out its niche in the Dracula universe, offering a unique take on the tale that’s intrigued generations. It’s a dark journey worth taking for fans of the genre, even if it didn’t quite capture the box office by storm.
On a fateful day in 1897, the merchant ship Demeter is discovered wrecked on the English shore, its journey chronicled in the captain’s log found amidst the debris. A month prior, the Demeter docked in Varna, Bulgaria, to load a mysterious cargo from Romania, destined for London. The local laborers, wary of the crates and eager to leave before nightfall, hastily handed off the cargo and a sizeable bribe for a safe voyage, leaving the ship’s crew, Wojchek and Olgaren, with an unsettling feeling.
Clemens, a Cambridge-educated doctor, finds himself on board after saving the captain’s grandson, Toby, from a falling crate bearing a sinister dragon emblem. Despite initial reluctance, his medical expertise earns him a spot among the crew. But when one of the crates breaks open, revealing a woman buried within, Clemens’ attempts to save her with blood transfusions mark the beginning of a nightmare.
The voyage turns deadly as Dracula, the legendary vampire, begins preying on the crew, transforming them into vampiric beings. Olgaren, turned by Dracula, becomes a direct threat to young Toby, leading to a horrifying chain of events. The crew’s desperation peaks as they consider scuttling the ship to thwart Dracula’s reach to London.
The battle against Dracula culminates in tragedy and loss, with key crew members falling victim to the vampire’s wrath. Anna, a stowaway with a personal vendetta against Dracula, becomes Clemens’ ally in their fight for survival. Their final confrontation with Dracula sees Anna making a heroic sacrifice, choosing death over a cursed existence as a vampire.
Washed ashore, Clemens carries the weight of their harrowing ordeal, vowing vengeance against Dracula for the horrors inflicted upon his friends and loved ones. The encounter at a London tavern with Dracula, now donning the guise of an aristocrat, rekindles Clemens’ resolve to hunt down the vampire and end his reign of terror.
This harrowing tale from aboard the Demeter serves as a chilling reminder of the timeless battle between human resilience and the darkest corners of the supernatural.