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Blu-Ray : Worth a Look
Ranking:
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Release Date: October 17th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2023

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Overview -

There have been many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s iconic Dracula, but never before has there been one singularly focused on just one chapter. One of the most terrifying pieces of the novel comes to life with The Last Voyage of the Demeter - an uneven but overall frightening and entertaining new entry in the Dracula lore. On Blu-ray with a respectable video transfer and an excellent Atmos track, makes you ask - where’s the 4K? Probably coming soon, maybe, so for now - Worth A Look

A terrifying new addition to the Dracula legend, based on a single chilling chapter from Bram Stoker's classic novel, The Last Voyage of the Demeter chronicles the doomed journey of a merchant ship ferrying 50 mysterious wooden crates from Carpathia to London. As they set sail, the crew soon discover they are not alone on board: at night they are stalked by a hidden passenger whose monstrous thirst for blood turns the trip into a harrowing nightmare of tension, terror and unfathomable evil.

 

Special Features:

  • ALTERNATE OPENING - Commentary available with Director André Øvredal and Producer Bradley J. Fischer
  • DELETED SCENES - Commentary available with Director André Øvredal and Producer Bradley J. Fischer
    • Clemens Picking up a Stone in Varna
    • Bosphorus and Constantinople
    • Clemens Following Huck's Blood Trail
    • Clemens and Anna Talk on Deck
    • Crew Discuss Where the Beast Is Hiding
    • Finding the Corpses in the Crate
    • Wojchek Finds the Captain
    • Clemens Visits His Father's Grave
  • FROM THE PITS OF HELL: DRACULA REIMAGINED - Learn how the creative team behind THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER conjured a new nightmare.
  • EVIL IS ABOARD: THE MAKING OF THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER - Set sail for an exclusive journey inside the making of the movie with the filmmakers and cast.
  • DRACULA & THE DIGITAL AGE - Visual effects supervisor Brad Parker leads a detailed look at the imaginative work that adds fresh layers of fear to Dracula, creates realistic water, and enhances scenery with bleeding-edge VFX.
  • FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH DIRECTOR ANDRÉ ØVREDAL AND PRODUCER BRADLEY J. FISCHER

OVERALL:
Worth a Look
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
118
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.39:1
Audio Formats:
English: Dolby Atmos
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date:
October 17th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

With so many interpretations of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire, it’s difficult for filmmakers to come up with anything new or exciting for Dracula. He’s been the mark of true horror. He’s been played by Jack Palance. He’s been killed and restored to life countless times. He’s sometimes depicted as a sexpot bo-hunk and also depicted as a demonic beast. Adaptations of his story have run wild from thin-but-faithful overviews of the plot to dramatically changing the entire vibe of horror into a tragic romance. But thanks to director André Øvredal, one of the most chilling chapters of the book isn’t simply glossed over for time, but treated as a feature all its own with The Last Voyage of the Demeter. It may be a little too long and a little too uneven leading into the final act, but the film brings the Prince of Darkness back to being a terrifying beast with some genuinely creepy, scary, moments of terror. 

Starring Corey Hawkins as wayward Dr. Clemens, he’s traveled the world and is desperately trying to book passage home to London from deep in the wilds of Romania. The only ship available is the Demeter, a vessel chartered to carry a very special cargo to England, but Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham), his grandson Toby (Woody Norman), and his second in command Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) have no need for a man like Clemens. When superstitious crewmen abandon their postings at the sight of the insignia adorning the cargo, Hawkins is given a chance to prove himself as a deckhand and ship’s doctor. Little does he know his skills as a doctor would be given practical application on the voyage when a creature of nightmare and legend starts feasting on the crew one by one. 

Now, it’d be very simple to cast off The Last Voyage of the Demeter as a simple Alien rehash but with Dracula (or IT! The Terror from Beyond Space if you want to get prickly about it). The two films have any number of similarities, none the least of which are the “Average Joe” crewmen being picked off by a beast that lurks in the shadows. But what this film does so well is steep the audience in a unique terrifying location. The belly of a freighter traveling at the whims of the weather with no chance for escape is just as chilling as the infinite expanse of space. Even when a character does the “smart thing” and attempts to leave, the beast has other plans and won’t be denied his meal! The key characters we care about are well-drawn and relatable making them an essential asset for feeling the terror they’re experiencing. And our beastly take on Dracula is certainly effective for some damned creepy imagery. The most horrifying moments aren’t even with the vampire, but what he’s done to some of the crew!

For me, where the film stumbles quite a bit is with certain character management and pacing. At just under two hours, there’s a lot of padding that doesn’t need to be there, especially as the survivors gear up for their big plan in the third act. Characters who had all but five words in the first 90 minutes all of a sudden are sputtering out their entire backstory. By that point, if you can’t identify who that character is by name, there’s no point in that speech. They're meat for the grinder. The audience is all amped up ready for the big trap to be set into motion and their fight for survival to begin. Instead, everyone sits down to chat and wait for the sun to set. Talk about sucking the wind out of the sails. Another aspect that didn’t really fit is a little coda that’s just tacked on like an attempt to set up a sequel that probably won’t come - or is even warranted given the characters involved. They're clunky issues that keep the film from greatness but don't completely sink the voyage either. 

André Øvredal and his writers had a big task ahead of them adapting a small section of the novel. Overall, I liked what they did and where they went with it. Dracula can be a pretty stale character if not handled correctly. They can’t all be Nicolas Cage! The Last Voyage of the Demeter earns its points by capturing a perfect atmosphere of dread and terror with a beastly vision of Dracula that was thankfully largely captured by practical makeup, costumes, and puppets with minimal CGI trickery for enhancements. Often it’s the use of what you don’t see that makes the film as scary as what it’s showing you that makes this particular Dracula so memorable. Our key cast is also excellent with Corey Hawkins standing tall as our man of science and reason while David Dastmalchian stands tall on his own. Liam Cunningham as the Captain often overtakes the show giving the narration that perfect sense of foreboding while desperately working to save his ship and crew from their dark fates. I truly feel a tighter edit, especially in the lead-up to the final act and this film would experience a fair-weather voyage. 





Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Once again forgoing a 4K release, Universal unleashes a perfect candidate for the format with The Last Voyage of the Demeter onto Blu-ray only with a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital release. The film is pressed on a BD-50 disc, and the included digital copy is Movies Anywhere compatible. The discs are housed in a two-disc case, my copy didn’t come with a slipcover when ordered.

Video Review

Ranking:

I saw this film in theaters and it certainly is a very dark film. Considering the iconic vampire, that’s not surprising. However, in theaters, the darkness was watchable and effective whereas this Blu-ray at times borders on impenetrably dark obscuring some exciting details or imagery. There are a few key sequences within the cargo hold where Dracula lurks deep in the shadows just out of visual range, it’s subtle but he’s there, and in theaters, it was damned creepy. On this 1080p disc, those scenes struggled. Unless the glint in his eyes was shown, you wouldn’t know what the camera was looking at. So that’s the downside of this release. The upside is that given our human cast of characters, there’s plenty of daylight action. Details generally look markedly better in those moments with clean lines and textures. This is where I do hope we get a really good 4K Upgrade with a respectable HDR grading. In theaters the whole film looked great. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, parts of it look really good with a lot of key scenes just not making the cut.

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio side, the best aspect of this disc is the Atmos audio mix. Given the location of a creepy ship, the filmmakers and sound team came up with a very cool series of tricks to evoke that feeling of isolation and creepiness. My favorite is a knocking scheme where someone bangs on the side of the boat and another crewmember knocks back. It gives a sense of imaging and also very effectively uses the surround and height channels. Likewise when our favorite vampire is creeping around, the sound of leathery moving skin slips and slides around beautifully. Dialog is clean and clear without issue. Given the creeks and groans of the rocking ship, LFE gets some pretty choice moments for impact. Scoring by Bear McCreary is also effectively moody knowing well when to keep to the silence and let the anticipation of the scare feed the audience instead of knocking them over the head with music cues. All around an excellent Atmos track.

Special Features

Ranking:

On the bonus features front, fans can sink their teeth into a pretty healthy assortment of extras. The Audio Commentary with André Øvredal and producer Bradley J. Fischer. The pair remain relatively active and engaged throughout discussing the project’s origins, shooting in their various locations, and assembling their cast. It can sound a little back-patty at times but otherwise a good listen. The various production featurettes may be brief, but they’re at least informative digging into key aspects of the production without just being talking-head nonsense. The incomplete alternate opening is pretty cool and would have been a pretty slick way to start the flick. Given my complaint that the film is already too long for pacing issues, the deleted scenes are interesting to see what could have been added. I don’t think they would have helped but still worthwhile viewing. 

  • Audio Commentary featuring André Øvredal and Bradley J. Fischer
  • From the Pits of Hell: Dracula Reimagined
  • Evil is Abroad: The Making of The Last Voyage of the Demeter
  • Dracula and the Digital Age
  • Alternate Opening
  • Deleted Scenes

The Last Voyage of the Demeter is one of those interestingly clever new takes on a familiar horror character that doesn’t quite live up to its ambitions. This short piece of the novel is the perfect candidate for its own scare show, but frustratingly gets overstuffed with dead weight. A tighter edit and a little more care and attention to when a character's story comes out might have yielded a a more fruitful bloody harvest out of this terrific high-concept version of Bram Stoker’s terrifying creation. Slight mediocrity aside, I still had a fun time with this one, even if it’s not the best big-screen Dracula we saw in 2023. And again we’re left waiting and wondering where the 4K disc could possibly be? The film looks good enough in 1080p but given how many scenes are steeped in deep shadows and darkness, full 4K with HDR would do wonders for the visuals. At least the Atmos track is excellent and the bonus features are worth the time. But until that 4K disc gets announced, albeit if, I can’t help but call this one Worth A Look