Alex Reviews "The Last Voyage of the Demeter"
It is a near impossible task for creativity to flourish in a story that has been told over and over in various forms since 1897, however The Last Voyage of the Demeter takes a simple premise, almost entirely new, and creates a riveting homage to classic suspense-filled monster movies.
The picture follows the final journey of a shipping charter disembarking from Romania and headed towards England. The events that transpire ensure that the crew and the ship are doomed to never reach their intended destination due to the cursed cargo in their hold.
While I am concerned on how a modern audience will react to this type of movie, it should not detract from the experience that The Last Voyage of the Demeter provides. It is not the horror movie many might expect, and it is not as fast as the latest trailer featuring “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” would imply. The film is a brilliantly paced suspense drama with a solid story that gives time to create the anxiety a suspenseful narrative intends. The script is well laid out and ensures that each beat has its purpose in the story. Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room series) developed an engaging world and Zak Olkewicz (Bullet Train) tightened it up to an awesome thriller that makes the audience wait for its payoff.
Creating the visuals and the world laid out by the script, André Øvredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) developed an amazingly well shot picture with two big influences. He said himself that his intent and execution was to recreate the 1979 masterpiece “Alien on a ship in 1897” and I can confirm that they nailed that goal. The other inspiration may not have been as intentional, but there is a lot of what Quentin Tarantino did with The Hateful Eight in this picture. Using particular shots and framing areas to give a much larger scale to something that takes place entirely on a schooner (roughly 160 feet long).
It wasn’t just the filming shots that looked great. The visual effects team did an impressive job in a way that I wonder if it is difficult for artists. With so much to work with, they made it look natural without going over the top and it grounded the more jarring moments in reality which fed the suspense and shock better than a gore fest could.
Further enhancing the picture, Bear McCreary creates a score that could best be described as undertones of dread and uncomfortable silence. It takes the intended anguish from the story and heightens it by giving us musical accompaniment intended to make the hairs on our neck stand up, but his real genius is in his willingness to soften the music and make it subtly disappear at the perfect moments to create maximum suspense.
The cast was spectacular, as should be expected from a group including Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones), David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad), and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton). Liam Cunningham perfectly embodies the mood of the movie as his Captain presents the living embodiment of the crew’s mentality throughout the picture from stoic business to grim acceptance. David Dastmalchian continues to be the best actor to never be a leading man (to my knowledge) and disappears into character work. His ability to express genuine emotion with minimal effort while never losing character should be an inspiration to aspiring thespians. Corey Hawkins continues his solid physical work. Consistently portraying a character that we want to root for, even if his accent work was less than stellar in this picture. It is literally my only real gripe with the film.
Sadly, my expectation is that the picture will not resonate with theater audiences, but The Last Voyage of the Demeter is a beautifully shot, brilliantly written story that is sure to find its fanbase in those that appreciate the thrill only a classic monster movie in modern packaging could provide.