In Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel “Dracula,” there is a brief, single chapter that tells the story of the Count’s journey by sea from Transylvania to London.
As told through the captain’s log, the chapter is chilling in that Dracula is an unseen force of evil that starts dispatching crewmen one by one until the ship crashes into the English coastline seemingly abandoned.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” fleshes out this chapter into a full-blown film about the doomed ship’s journey – with mixed results.
The star of the movie is Corey Hawkins who plays Clemens, a doctor who is willing to serve as a crewman on the Demeter in order to get passage to England.
Clemens is viewed with everything from suspicion to disdain from the crew and is especially disliked by first mate Wojchek (David Dastmalchain). But he earns the trust of Captain Eliot (“Game of Thrones” alum Liam Cunningham) and as the Demeter sets off it is business as usual for a 19th century sailing vessel.
But things start getting creepy as the crew on the night watch start seeing things and then a young woman (Aisling Franciosi) is discovered on board in a state of delirium with strange bite marks on her body. Events proceed accordingly from there.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is a clever premise that makes good use of its source material as that chapter from the novel does follow the modern horror movie formula of an unseen killer dispatching isolated victims one at a time.
The cast is sound and the production values are high as both the period and the ship boast impressive levels of authenticity.
But where director Andre Overdal succeeds technically, he drops the ball when it comes to pacing. While trying to build suspense and dread, he mostly winds up building boredom as the movie drags in several stretches.
I definitely enjoyed that the movie reclaims Dracula as a force of terror from the mothballed and campy role he has taken in pop culture. This is as close to the full-blown monster Stoker envisioned that you’ll find in a movie this side of “Nosferatu.”
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” doesn’t arrive in port fully intact, but it does work as a scary little summertime distraction.
“The Last Voyage of the Demeter” is rated R for bloody violence.