How’s this for a novel approach to adapting a classic story? Rather than take, say, a breezy children’s story like “The Hobbit” and stretch it past its breaking point into an epic trilogy of movies, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” follows a very different mindset altogether. By expanding on a surprisingly short chapter of “Dracula,” which intentionally keeps a key moment in Dracula’s reign of terror at a chilling distance from readers, Øvredal was able to take full advantage of the creative freedom afforded to him to tell an entire story between those lines of text.
That meant taking certain liberties to flesh out the crew of the Demeter, which only amounted to five deckhands, a first and second mate, a cook, and the captain himself in the book. While at least two of the named crew have been translated faithfully to the screen — the early Dracula victim Petrofsky (Nikolai Nikolaeff) and the deeply superstitious Olgaren (Stefan Kapicic) — the film goes out of its way to expand on Captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) along with the ship’s first mate Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) and religious cook Joseph (Jon Jon Briones), introduce the captain’s innocent grandson Toby (Woody Norman), and give us a new main lead in Corey Hawkins’ ever-capable doctor Clemens and the added wrinkle of a stowaway in Aisling Franciosi’s Anna.
Clemens and Anna aren’t ever mentioned in the original novel, marking the biggest change the creative team on “Demeter” chose to make. Clemens provides audiences with a much-needed sympathetic figure to bring us into the story just as he joins the crew of the Demeter. Anna, meanwhile, serves an expositional purpose while folding in other layers of Dracula mythology — namely the vampire’s “brides,” one of whom traditionally is named Anna in some takes on the story.