Plot: What’s it about?
When it comes to movie about vampires, there are no shortage films and television shows to choose from. When it comes to the granddaddy of them all – Dracula…your options are slimmed down, but not by a lot. So it was with a bit of eager anticipation that I popped in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, the so-called “origin” story of Dracula. Uh huh. Well, I guess everything and everyone came from somewhere so why not Dracula? Based on a single chilling chapter from Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, this tells the terrifying story of the merchant ship Demeter, which was chartered to carry private cargo—fifty unmarked wooden crates—from Carpathia to London. OK, I’m officially intrigued (and, admittedly, haven’t read Bram Stoker’s novel).
Clemens (Corey Hawkins), is a doctor who gets a job on the Demeter after saving the life of Toby (Woody Norman), the young son of Capt. Eliot (Liam Cunningham). The ship has been commissioned to transport 50 wooden crates from, as stated above, Carpathia to London. The contents of these crates aren’t known, but First mate Wojcheck (David Dastmalchian) is determined to get this precious cargo there on time. It’s soon discovered that there are two stowaways that weren’t known. One is Anna (Aisling Franciosi) and the other is, you guessed it, the creature that’s been killing the livestock as well as members of the crew in a fairly gruesome fashion. The bodies begin to pile up and it’s not before long that Capt. Eliot orders a complete search of the ship. Unbeknowst to the crew, the creature can turn into a bat and elude their search. Is the crew doomed?
Origin stories, to me, are a bit of a safe play. On one hand, they generally take a well-known character and give it some history and backstory. Since we’re already familiar with the character, it makes them more relatable (be it Dracula or something a bit more “friendly”). And, let’s face it, when we think of Dracula, don’t we all think of this? Or is it just me? At any rate, I did like some of the history and things I’d have never put together, but the movie does parallel other horror movies – namely Alien. If you put that creature in this movie where members of the crew start to get picked off one by one, there’s something eerily familiar there, yes? But vampires, and more to the point – Dracula, have a big following so while this might be the de facto origin story we were all after, it does serve as a distraction from our non-vampire lives, if only for 118 minutes.
Video: How’s it look?
By and large, I think we can all agree that any movie concerning Dracula (or one of its derivatives) will be, you guessed it, dark. And this is. The cover art is not misleading. That said, most modern movies – regardless of how “dark” they are, do still look pretty darn good. Black levels and contrast are all very strong and it’s proof that this 2.39:1 AVC HD encode isn’t pulling any punches (er…teeth?). Detail is top notch too, of course, with an image so clear we can see the pores on the actors’ faces. Dracula, however, looks like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. If they were going for “scary”, it didn’t work – at least with me. What does work is this transfer.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Is it me or are the mainstream studio releases now starting to feature a Dolby Atmos mix on a Blu-ray? This isn’t anything new, but it’s nice to see that you don’t have to pay a few extra bucks just to get a superior soundtrack. The studios wouldn’t mind it, though. That aside, the Atmos soundtrack makes the most of what it’s been given. The crashing of the waves (bear in mind, most of the action takes place on a ship at sea), the creaking of the boards and, naturally, the screams of the victims – they all sound great in Atmos. Vocals are strong as well. It’s a very action-oriented mix that’s sure to please and I have to say once again now nice it was to have this on the Blu-ray.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director André Øvredal and Producer Bradley J. Fischer
- 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
- o 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 film 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.
The Bottom Line
The Last Voyage of the Demeter won’t be for everyone. There are tons of movies about Dracula out there. And if that isn’t enough, there are tons more about vampires. I felt there were a few missed opportunities in the film, but overall found it satisfying. Universal’s disc looks and sounds great and comes equipped with just enough extras to warrant a purchase – if you’re so inclined.