How Last Voyage of the Demeter Made Dracula Scary Again
Producers Brad Fischer and Mike Medavoy discuss their surprising new vampire thriller.
In the 101 years since Nosferatu ripped off Bram Stoker’s Dracula and invented a new film genre, over 80 movies have been made featuring the Prince of Darkness. So how do you tell a new type of story about Dracula? The answer lies in an overlooked chapter of Stoker’s original novel.
“Dracula has been done and done and done so many ways at so many levels because it's public domain,” producer Brad Fischer tells Inverse. “It's the sort of curse and blessing of public domain as IP. Anybody can do it. And anyone could have done this, but this story hadn't been told.”
Fischer is a co-producer on The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a new horror movie that adapts the seventh chapter of Dracula, originally told via two newspaper clippings that detail a shipwreck off the coast of Whitby, England. When the Demeter washes up on shore, the crew is gone and the deceased captain is found tied to his own ship’s wheel.
No movie has attempted to adapt this chapter, although plenty of other films reference it, including Nosferatu and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.
“It provides this gift of storytelling,” Fischer says. “It's a series of narrative guideposts of what happens on this doomed voyage. What happened on that ship? That question has been posed but never answered.”
(Technically, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat’s 2020 Dracula miniseries devotes one 1-hour-and-26-minute-long episode to the story. But their interpretation also takes some pretty wild liberties with the source material, so we’ll let that one slide.)
The biggest liberty The Last Voyage of the Demeter takes with its source material is probably its depiction of Dracula. If you’re expecting a sinister-but-charming count, you’re out of look. Instead, the operative word here is “feral.”
“It’s like Alien on a ship,” producer Mike Medavoy tells Inverse.
The concept of a more monstrous Dracula was always baked into the script, which has been in development since the early 2000s. Co-writer Bragi Schut Jr. was inspired to center a movie on the chapter after seeing models of the Demeter used in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but his script would be rewritten as the production went through a string of directors, including Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife), Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters), and David Slade (Hard Candy). But the concept stayed the same.
“It was always written as the more feral approach,” Fischer says. “That was always a choice that on the ship itself, he would be more of a monster than something resembling the count.” The producer attributes Dracula’s form in the movie to “the lack of blood and the sort of animalistic desire and need for blood to stay alive.”
However, he notes that we do see a bit of a transformation into the Count Dracula fans know and love.
“You see a hint at the end of him moving closer toward something resembling a man,” Fischer says.
Speaking of endings, we won’t go into spoilers, but it should come as no surprise that Dracula survives (he always does, after all). So does that mean we could be getting a sequel?
“The question of whether a sequel gets made is never up to the people that make the movie,” Fischer says. “It's up to the audience. It's obviously dependent on the public wanting to see it. That’s the decider.”
That said, if we do get a sequel, Fischer does have some thoughts on where the franchise could go next:
“Because it's a center piece of a larger story, there is much more story to tell. There's a tremendous amount of Dracula allure that both precedes and follows.”