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MOVIE REVIEW: The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Dracula from 'Demeter'
Batman 1897

We love our spooky movies here at Cereal Creatures and we're huge fans of the Universal Monsters, so we had to check out the latest Dracula movie, The Last Voyage of the Demeter. The movie itself is an adaptation of the "Captain's Log" chapter of the Bram Stoker novel that tells of the harrowing final voyage of the sailing ship Demeter as it journeyed between Transylvania and London. Their cargo includes fifty mysterious crates and of course, we know what--or who--is in one of those crates.

The movie has a very strong cast, led by Corey Hawkins as a Cambridge-educated doctor named Clemens. Coming in at two hours, it aptly conveys the dread and doom that sets upon the Demeter crew as a mysterious force starts killing first the livestock on the ship, then members of the crew themselves. The cinematography showed both the danger and beauty of a sailing ship on the high seas. The effects are exceptional and the main man himself is frighteningly realistic.

This is a Universal movie, but I'm not sure how it fits in with the Universal Monsters brand. I'm really surprised Universal doesn't have a Universal Monsters motion graphic/animated info similar to DC and Marvel movies. There appears to be no plan to return to the "Dark Universe", so why not highlight the movies that showcase their monsters? Now, to be clear, this is clearly the public domain Dracula (think Batman's nemesis Man Bat crossed with Nosferatu's Count Orlock) and not the Bela Lugosi version. But, as mentioned, the first animated logo of the movie is Universal Pictures. There was one strange moment in the movie that I had to go online to verify I'd seen what I indeed saw--Larry Talbot's wolf-head cane in Dracula's box and again at the end of the movie. Now, I've seen speculation that this is could indeed be a backdoor attempt at a new "Dark Universe" concept--and if so, so much the better. But for now I'm just calling this an easter egg.

I won't spoil the movie, but since this is based on the Dracula (the book), we know the blood-sucking monster makes it to London and his new home at Carfax Abbey. The movie is almost exclusively set on the Demeter, but we get a little bit of Dracula in London--and that really sealed the deal for me. Throughout the movie, we see the bat-like, monstrous beast Dracula with no hint of the three-piece suit version most associated with the 1931 Dracula movie. But these final scenes make the connection--though extremely horrifying--that despite everything you saw on the Demeter, Dracula is very much a man.

Another storyline, once the killing starts, was the science versus faith discussion. The hero figure, a doctor, who strives to understand the science behind the force that is killing the crew and others who believe it is a demon or devil that cannot be defeated. In the end, Clemens knows Dracula is ultimately a man--and can be stopped. At least, in theory.

Also of note is kid actor, Woody Norman, who plays the captain's 9-year old grandson. He is one to watch as horror fans may recall him from the recent movie Cobweb.

I would be remiss if I didn't note the haunting score by Bear McCreary--who, to this day, is responsible for me whistling tunes from some of the best scores ever composed, the 2004 Battlestar Galactica. Look up "Grand Old Lady" on YouTube and you'll see what I mean.

I've seen almost no promotion of this movie. Its review scores aren't great on Rotten Tomatoes, but not horrible. But, in my experience, seeing it in a movie theatre was well worth it. Universal still doesn't seem to have a great grasp on their monsters--i.e. this year's other Universal monster movie Renfield, which was 180 degrees from this movie, but at least a century later they're still trying to find a formula that resonates. I may be in the minority, but Demeter was a better movie than Renfield. Bring on a Karloff-inspired version of Frankenstein set in this same universe fifty years later. How about a Wolfman, too? That's why seeing this movie is important. There is a place for the classic monsters in today's pop culture--but it may take a few tries to find it.


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