Norwegian horror virtuoso André Øvredal returns to literary adaptation for his sixth feature in The Last Voyage of the Demeter from Universal Pictures. Bragi F. Schut, Stefan Ruzowitzky, and Zak Olkewicz pen the film's screenplay based on the chapter "The Captain's Log" from Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The merchant ship Demeter, which has the tasking to carry private cargo happens fifty unmarked wooden crates from Carpathia to London. Strange events befall the doomed crew as they attempt to survive the ocean voyage, stalked each night by a merciless presence onboard the ship. When the Demeter finally arrives off the shores of England, it is a charred, derelict wreck. There is no trace of the crew.
The film stars Corey Hawkins as Clemens, a doctor who joins the Demeter crew; Aisling Franciosi as Anna, an unwitting stowaway; Liam Cunningham as the ship's captain Elliot and David Dastmalchian as Demeter's first mate. The supporting cast includes Jon Jon Briones, Stefan Kapicic, and Nikolai Nikolaeff.
One of the film's strengths lies in its atmosphere and setting. The claustrophobic confines of the ship and the constant sense of impending doom create a tense and eerie atmosphere that may keep some viewers on the edge of their seats. The production design and cinematography effectively capture the gritty and atmospheric nature of the late 19th-century maritime world, adding to the overall sense of dread.
The performances in the film are generally solid. The cast of well-known actors delivers competent performances that help to elevate the material. I've wanted to see Corey Hawkins in a lead role for a while, and he does what he can as our primary propagandist. However, the rest of the characters have limited development, making it difficult to connect with them. It's a never-good sign when you're just waiting for the next character to meet their demise.
The narrative structure of the film is a mixed bag. The film opens with the aftermath and then takes us to the events on board the Demeter. This approach could've added a layer of mystery and intrigue to the story, but the execution feels disjointed at times. The pacing is uneven, and the attempts at jump scares are mild at best.
Another major disappointment of The Last Voyage of the Demeter is its failure to explore the horror elements fully. André Øvredal is a skilled horror director. While he does create the occasional moments of tension and suspense, we never get a genuine scare.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter did have an intriguing premise, but not even an Oscar-winning cast could have saved this one.
The film falls short in its execution, lacking character development and cohesive storytelling. While it may appeal to fans of the original novel or those interested in atmospheric period pieces, it will ultimately fail to leave a lasting impression on the masses.
Final Grade: C-
The Last Voyage of the Demeter opens in theaters today.