In 1893, a boat drifts into the storm-battered Whitby shore. The crew has pulled a Mary Celeste. The dead captain remains, "fastened by his hands, tied one over the other, to a spoke of the wheel." It's the seventh chapter of Bram Stoker's Dracula. What the novel leaves to the fevered imagination, André Øvredal's film presents in occasionally gory detail. Think Alien, set at sea rather than in space.

The 2023 film begins well, its introduction owing more to classic horror of yore than more recent genre offerings. We meet the players-- effectively acted. Then people start dying.

Dracula, the suave foreign count? Forget it. Someone who could be that character appears once, for seconds. At sea, on board a vessel that he has doomed, he doesn't need his human guise. When we glimpse him, he's a monstrosity, wolf and bat and decaying man with dead eyes and a mouthful of viperfish teeth.

The film features a creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere. It mostly eschews jump scares. While effective and occasionally frightening, it never fully capitalizes on its strengths.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter, then, is no great horror, but it's superior to any of Universal's recent attempts to launch some kind of Classic Monster Cinematic Universe. The ending even suggests that could happen. One could imagine a Dracula for which this film would be the optional middle act (film adaptations rarely give much attention to the Demeter). I would watch that movie. A certain surviving crewmember might perhaps fill in for cowboy Quincey Morris, usually absent from film adaptations. Alas, reviews were tepid, and the film has not fared well financially. Sequels seem unlikely. What we have is an interesting experiment that might have presaged better things, but which remains worthwhile for fans of the genre.

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