A hangry Dracula feasts on rats, kids, and other unlucky bastards in The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a mildly entertaining horror-thriller that fails to take a bite out of its potential.
Set aboard a cargo ship in 1897, the captain and crew of the Demeter discover too late that they have a vampire on board. That’s the plot. That’s the concept. And I like it.
But Dracula on a Boat is also 30 minutes too long, not nearly as scary or suspenseful as it could have been, and a bit of a missed opportunity.
Directed by André Øvredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Autopsy of Jane Doe and the excellent Troll Hunter), Dracula on a Boat has a lot of the right elements. A decent cast headlined by Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, and David Dastmalchian, creepy creature design, and a cool premise make for a recipe for success. But something is off in the execution.
The movie has some solid visual effects and the Dracula creature is downright freaky, especially early on, but Øvredal is unable to sustain a sense of dread or suspense–something you’d expect for a movie about a bunch of people trapped on a boat with a vampire. Shit happens, and then it’s daytime again. Night comes once more and the characters don’t seem to have done anything to improve their situation. Somehow they aren’t able to find Dracula over the span of many, many days–absolutely baffling.
The characters are generally stupid. Hawkins’ character is presented as the smart man in the room (he’s also dreadfully dull for the lead protagonist), but he makes as many dumb decisions as the rest. Cunningham plays the captain but he contributes little to his survival. The others have practically zero personality, which make them mindless fodder. And when they all finally get around to forming a plan, the plan is absolutely terrible and makes no sense.
Dracula on a Boat has some blood-spilling moments and overall it’s a coherently told horror story. But it’s too long and a lot dumber than the filmmakers think it is, with not nearly enough terror and legitimately scary moments to sink your teeth into.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.