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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'El Conde', 'The Last Voyage Of The Demeter' | Vampires, Horror, Pablo Larraín, Corey Hawkins

Jaime Vadell in a fur coat, Corey Hawkins and Aisling Franciosi on a ship
El Conde (L), The Last Voyage Of The Demeter (R)


Every now and then it doesn't matter if a movie was a bloody good time or a bloody okay time because there are vampires and it's just a bloody time. Sinking their teeth into satire is director-writer Pablo Larraín who bats out a dark comedy with El Conde (same title used in Chile), using its monochrome canvas whilst shading the picture with some horror elements. The film reimagines loathed Chilean politician and dictator Augusto Pinochet (played by Jaime Vadell), known for his murderous and corrupt stint leading the country from 1973 to 1990, as a 250-year-old vampire with the titular nickname a.k.a ''The Count''. Being under an investigation after his rule, Pinochet looks for a way to die, which leaves his family and associates, including wife Lucía (Gloria Münchmeyer) and butler Fyodor (Alfredo Castro), interested in his inheritance. His children also hire a nun, Carmen (Paula Luchsinger), to exorcise Pinochet so he can die.

Larraín and co-writer Guillermo Calderón have found a fairly compelling way into the story as that premise would tell you and they do manage to draw some blood and whimsy out of the situation. It's not always a smooth ride, however, because the director's overview doesn't exactly always find the right comedic timing; there are at points notable pacing issues when it comes to moving characters around, expressing their motivations or Sofía Subercaseaux's editing that struggles to find a way to highlight excellent line deliveries.

On the other hand, cinematographer Edward Lachman uses a gothic, melancholy black-and-white photography flawlessly to accentuate the absurdity as characters are stripped down from their privilege to their shallowness only. Larraín gets that point across with the technical merits, such as Tatiana Maulen's art direction, and a few of the performances—mainly with Luchsinger who perhaps best commits to serious, emotional acting, which contrasts the comedic setting and banter really well as it often does. The bluntness of the film's messaging about a greedy monster of a man feeding off the unfortunate ones also works well, but you do wish that the fangs themselves were slightly sharper. After all, you are out for blood when you make satire.

Smileys: Cinematography, Paula Luchsinger

Frowneys: Pacing


Jaime Vadell wearing a fur coat and a military hat


There's a vampire on a boat, okay? What more do you need in the pleasurable gift that is known as cinema? Surely that's enough. We're back with another adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel 'Dracula', but this time specifically only the chapter called 'The Captain's Log' as The Last Voyage Of The Demeter is only interested in bloodsuckers on stormy waters. Adapted by screenwriters Bragi Schut Jr. and Zak Olkewicz, the film follows a doctor named Clemens (Corey Hawkins) who finds his way to be part of the crew of merchant ship Demeter that is getting ready to sail from Transylvania to London. However, Clemens, the ship's captain Eliot (Liam Cunningham), his grandson Toby (Woody Norman), stowaway Anna (Aisling Franciosi), quartermaster Wojchek (David Dastmalchian) and other crew members' voyage soon becomes treacherous since the cargo also includes a bloodthirsty Dracula (Javier Botet).

This is not exactly rocket science: you put a murderous vampire and a group of potential victims in a place with no escape and start increasing the body count. Director André Øvredal and the rest of the team clearly understand their mission as they provide brooding, gothic horror with decent performances by Hawkins, Franciosi and Dastmalchian especially, a few nasty kills and plenty of creaking and growling of ships, men and beasts.

Cinematographer Tom Stern's uneven, often even ugly lighting combined with some atrocious colour grading can regularly make it hard to see the craft on display, but the mix of solid special effects and striking creature design—itself being a mix of practical makeup prosthetics and VFX, though I personally learned about the former weeks after seeing the film—contribute to the film's cool atmosphere throughout. Sometimes you simply want to smell blood in (on?) the water, admire a movie's more classic horror tinges and have a moderately good time as you watch the bloodshed. ''Demeter'' gives you that.

Smileys: Atmosphere, character design

Frowneys: Lighting


Corey Hawkins and Aisling Franciosi looking distraught on a ship
Universal Pictures

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