- Run Time
- 1 hour and 58 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
My mind reels; horror has appalled me;
the twilight I longed for
has been turned for me into trembling.
André Øvredal’s horror film is based on just one chapter, the Captain’s Log, from Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel Dracula. This is the story of how Dracula was immersed in the dirt of one of the 24 wooden crates aboard the schooner Demeter being shipped from Carpathia to London. Because of a series of bloody events on board, the doomed ship will not reach its destination, instead breaking up amidst a storm off the coast of Whitby Harbor.
The film will center on Clemens (Corey Hawkins) a Black man who at first is rejected as part of the crew, but then accepted after the man first chosen is injured. Ship’s captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham) welcomes Clemens aboard—the new crew member is a doctor—but most of the crew are suspicious, even a bit hostile, because of their prejudice. Captain Eliot is grateful to Clemons because the latter has just rescued his grandson Toby (Woody Norman) from being crushed by a crate that falls while being loaded.
Among the crates a young girl named Anna (Aisling Franciosi) is discovered, besmudged by the Transylvanian dirt they contain. The young woman is beset by a strange malady, but fortunately Clemens is able to administer blood transfusions that save her life. It is assumed she is a stowaway, but after a series of horrible deaths of crew members begins, we discover that she had been shipped to provide blood for the strange creature that we at first catch only glimpses of amidst the shadows of the night. Whatever the creature preying on the men—each corpse has a neck wound where flesh has been torn away and blood sucked out. It will not be a pleasant Mediterranean voyage, but of course anyone with the slightest knowledge of the Dracula stories know this.
This movie’s suspense is not due to its plot but rather to the well-conceived atmosphere and the guessing of who will be the next victim. This is the only version, as far as I know, in which Dracula is not the cultured Count, but a monster with bat ears and large batwings enabling him to fly about the ship as he selects his victim/meal for the night. Another deviation is that a main character is a Black man, well played by Corey Hawkins. And your heart will go out to the cabin boy, the grandson of Captain Elliot, appealingly played by young Woody Norman. Clemons, a graduate of the medical school at Cambridge (which in reality didn’t produce a Black graduate until 1918), finds that his belief in science and that thus there is a rational explanation for everything is challenged to the breaking point. Fans of the horror genre, if they can accept the changes to a classic, will find this a voyage worth taking.
This review is in the Sept. 2023 issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.