Tuesday, September 19, 2023

What I Watched in August 2023

As you might already know, THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER (2023) is an adaptation of The Captain’s Log chapter from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. In most film adaptations of the story the travel from Transylvania to England is passed over quickly so the story can get to the ‘good stuff’. But what if the good stuff began on that ill-fated ship transporting the Count and his boxes of home earth? Sure, we all know the fate of the ship and that Dracula makes it to his destination but what are the details of the voyage? This film expertly tells that tale with much more energy, atmosphere and grue than I expected. This is a pleasing exercise in lush period horror and harsh vampire creepiness that is far more immersive and involving than some adaptations of the entire story. The filmmakers smartly keep the reality of the time and place centered, adding plenty of detail to the characters and shipboard working life in the 19th century. I found myself caught up in learning about how things are done on the ship and actually wanted to spend more time with the cook and other members of the crew. The cast is excellent never becoming easily readable ‘types’ and acting like real people aware of their circumstances. The slow progression of their dawning knowledge of what is happening is well played with a consistent tone and a firm handle on how these folks would react to each escalation.

One of the best things about the film for me is the realization that is often overlooked by horror fans that each human death is a tragedy. Each person on this ship had a life stretched out before them that is being cut short so a monster can simply travel to a new land. THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER makes us feel the loss of nearly every member of the crew making its point early on with a shocking choice of innocent victim. This is dark tale and it is told in a manner that causes empathy in the audience from the outset. It provides the requisite thrills but remains a strong condemnation of the horrible actions it depicts. This is supernatural monster story and, one could argue, merely a portion of the whole tale but it plays like a complete piece that is satisfying on its own while begging for a continuation that will sadly never be made. It’s a shame that period horror films seem to be the one form of the genre that cannot find a way to be profitable.

The List

CONVICT 99 (1938) – 6 (fun comedy with Will Hay as a prison warden)

LEGION OF SUPERHEROES (2023) – 5 (mediocre animated try at the Legion)

BARBIE (2023) – 9

TIGER OF THE SEVEN SEAS (1962) - 6 (fun Italian pirate adventure)

A MAN CALLED RAGE (1984) – 6 (very flawed but entertaining Italian post-apocalyptic tale)

CALLING DR. DEATH (1943) – 6 (rewatch on Blu)

WEIRD WOMAN (1944) – 7 (rewatch on Blu)


DEATH GAME (1977) – 7 (finally caught up with this nasty little gem)

COME ON DANGER (1942) – 5 (standard Tim Holt western)

WILD MONEY (1937) – 7 (fun newspaper tale with Edward Everett Horton)

CONQUEST (1983) – 7 (rewatch on Blu)

LAKE OF THE DEAD (1958) – 7 (Norwegian folk horror)

TILBURY (1987) – 6 (Icelandic folk horror)

BLUE BEETLE (2023) – 8

THE FINAL EXECUTIONER (1984) – 6 (post-apocalyptic Most Dangerous Game variant)

FOUR MEN AND A PRAYER (1938) – 7 (John Ford drama with some wild tone shifts)

WARRIOR OF THE LOST WORLD (1983) – 3 (thought I had seen this – woof)

KING OF THE BULLWHIP (1950) – 6 (pretty good Lash La Rue B-western)

STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984) – 7 (rewatch)

JUST PALS (1920) – 6 (silent John Ford film with Buck Jones)

TALK TO ME (2023) – 7

REVENGE (2017) – 7 (bloody and effective French rape/revenge tale) 

TARZAN AND THE GREEN GODDESS (1938) – 6 (edited from a serial - this thing moves fast)

$10,000 BLOOD MONEY (1967) – 7 (very solid spaghetti western)

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