Bram Stoker wrote “Dracula” 126 years ago – somehow Hollywood still messes it up.
In 2023 there were already two “dirt-ulas”. Back in April came the hilarious “Renfield,” starring Nicolas Cage as the Count and Nicholas Hoult as his battered assistant.
And as if we haven’t been bitten enough, here’s a new horror film, The Last Voyage of Demeter, about the vampire’s not-so-pleasant cruise to England.
Running time: 118 minutes. Rated R (bloody violence). Friday at the cinema.
As always, Dracula sucks blood. But his latest movie just sucks.
Director André Øvredal’s choppy film is based – as loosely as possible – on the captain’s log from Stoker’s 1897 novel about the doomed water voyage from Bulgaria to Whitby.
The film languished in development hell for years, and one has to wonder why so much time and effort was put into it.
Anyone with a kindergarten diploma knows that the experience of watching Dracula gradually kill one sailor after another in exactly the same way aboard a medium-sized ship with only a few rooms would be insanely boring.
And, oh, it ever has. Øvredal tries to overcome the lack of an engaging storyline by increasing the content, which has worked wonders with the Evil Dead films. But there is no creativity or artistry in this violence. The occasional smashed skull earns a “so what?”
There’s nothing really scary about “Demeter,” despite the million “He’s got your back!” jump scares thrown in generously.
The filmmakers also try to up the fear factor by transforming Dracula (Javier Botet) into an unclothed Gollum-like creature with gray skin and bat wings (the Netflix series Midnight Mass did this in a much smarter way).
At first glance we think of him as a dangerous mythical creature, similar to the Mothman. But then he whispers four words in English. From this one can only conclude that he is an ugly, soft-spoken cannibal nudist.
I’m not saying to make him Grandpa Munster, but Dracula would be more compelling and scary as a fully realized character.
Among the sailors Batboy torments at night are Dr. Clemens (Corey Hawkins), stowaway Anna (Aisling Franciosi), Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham) and Wojcheck (David Dastmalchian).
Every single one has a little motivation to be there. Clemens is a decent guy who wants to make money; the captain plans to retire to shore after this crossing; Wojcheck will finally inherit the Demeter; Joseph the cook (Jon Jon Briones) thinks this is a punishment from God; and Anna is an old friend of Drac’s.
The actors do what they can, playing cinematic stick figures. Cunningham scores best because he brings the same moral authority as he did in Davos on Game of Thrones.
The general hollowness of the cast is largely due to the screenplay by Bragi Schut and Zak Olkewicz – the characters’ jaded attitudes in Danger is bewildering. We’re two-thirds through the movie and through multiple deaths before anyone decides to find the monster responsible.
At the beginning of the film, the Demeter is shown being wrecked and washed ashore in England. So there is at least some comfort in knowing that The Last Voyage really is the final voyage.