Bram Stoker wrote “Dracula” 126 years ago — somehow, Hollywood is still screwing it up.
There have already been two Dreck-ulas in 2023. Back in April came the unfunny “Renfield,” starring Nicolas Cage as the count and Nicholas Hoult as his mistreated assistant.
And now, as if we haven’t been bitten enough already, here’s the new horror film “The Last Voyage of the Demeter,” about the vamp’s not-so-pleasurable cruise to England.
Running time: 118 minutes. Rated R (bloody violence). In theaters August 11.
As always, Dracula sucks blood. But his latest movie simply sucks.
Director André Øvredal’s choppy film is based — as loosely as possible — on the captain’s log from Stoker’s 1897 novel, about the doomed watery journey from Bulgaria to Whitby.
The project languished in development hell for years, and you have to wonder why so much time and effort went into it.
Anybody with a kindergarten diploma knows that the experience of watching Dracula gradually kill one sailor after another in exactly the same way aboard a medium-sized vessel with only a few rooms would turn out to be mind-numbingly boring.
And, oh, has it ever. Øvredal attempts to overcome the lack of an engrossing plot by upping the gore, which has worked wonders for the “Evil Dead” movies. But there’s no creativity or artfulness to this violence. The occasional bashed skull earns a “so what?”
Nothing about “Demeter” is frightening, really, despite the million “he’s behind you!” jump-scares liberally tossed in.
The filmmakers also try to boost the fear factor by turning Dracula (Javier Botet) into an unclothed Gollum-like creature with gray skin and bat wings (the Netflix series “Midnight Mass” did this in a much smarter way).
At first glance, we think he’s a dangerous mythical animal, akin to the Mothman. But then he whispers four words in English. So, one can only conclude that he’s an ugly, soft-spoken, cannibal nudist.
I’m not saying make him Grandpa Munster, but Dracula would be more compelling and bone-chilling as a fully realized character.
The seafarers that Batboy torments by night include Dr. Clemens (Corey Hawkins), stowaway Anna (Aisling Franciosi), Captain Elliot (Liam Cunningham) and first offer Wojcheck (David Dastmalchian).
Each one has a tiny motivation for being there. Clemens is a decent guy who wants to earn a buck; the captain plans to retire to the coast after this crossing; Wojcheck will finally inherit the Demeter; Joseph the chef (Jon Jon Briones) thinks this is punishment from God; and Anna is an old pal of Drac’s.
The actors do what they can, playing cinematic stick figures. Cunningham comes off best because he brings the same moral authority that he did to Davos on “Game of Thrones.”
The cast’s overall hollowness is largely the fault of Bragi Schut Jr. and Zak Olkewicz’s script — the characters’ blase attitude while in peril is confounding. We’re two thirds through the movie and several deaths in before somebody decides they should find the monster responsible.
At the start of the movie, the Demeter is shown destroyed and washed ashore in England. So there is, at least, some solace in knowing that “The Last Voyage” is truly the last voyage.