MOVIE NIGHT! Old books, itinerant vampires, and complicated sex lives

Everyone’s favorite Transylvanian doesn’t bother dressing up for travel in The Last Voyage of the Demeter.  image credit: Universal Pictures.


By Glenn McDonald

Every other week, our Movie Night! column previews the best upcoming films showing in Chapel Hill theaters – for those who still like to go out to the movies. Please remember that bookings and schedules change all the time, so always check online before heading out.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter

Opening August 11 at Silverspot

Pickings are a little slim just now for new movies, what with Barbie and Oppenheimer still dominating the cultural conversation. But if you have a soft spot for old-fashioned horror films with literary aspirations, I have some good news.

The Last Voyage of the Demeter, opening this weekend, is an interesting specimen. The film is based on Bram Stoker’s Gothic masterpiece Dracula – or more specifically, on a single chapter from that excellent book.

The gist: The good Count, making his way from Transylvania to London early in the story, arranges passage aboard the ill-fated ocean vessel The Demeter. It’s admirably straightforward: He just has his people put his coffin in the storage hold. The Demeter leaves port with a full crew and passengers. By the time it drifts into England, the only survivors are the captain – insane and lashed to the helm – and a suspicious black dog.

Last Voyage tells the story of what happens in between, and it’s a great idea for a script. Stoker never describes the action in the novel, and I always found that to be an artful omission – the horror is left to the imagination of the reader. I also have always wanted to know what really happened.

The new film has actually been in development hell for more than 20 years, and it looks like a modest affair. But word is that the movie plays out like the 1979 space horror classic Alien transposed to the 19th century North Sea. For devotees of history, literature, and good scary movies, this is hard to resist.

Random bonus tip: If you’d like to get the entire Dracula novel delivered to your inbox in epistolary real time, check out the clever Dracula Daily newsletter.


Opening August 18 at the Chelsea

I’ve been out of the game for a while, but from what I can tell, romance and seduction is incredibly complicated these days. This is certainly the case in Passages, the latest from indie filmmaker Ira Sachs, whose 2016 film Little Men is a beautiful thing.

Passages stars Ben Whishaw and Franz Rogowski as a long-committed gay couple whose relationship is threatened when one of them has an affair with a woman. Made in France, but with mostly English dialogue, the film was a big hit at Sundance this year. Critics describe Passages as raw, sexy, funny, and deeply humanistic.

Interesting note: The film received an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association (MPA), the industry trade association that determines film ratings in the U.S. Keep in mind, however, that the MPA system is terminally broken. The review board will issue an R rating to films with scenes of extreme violence, cruelty, and torture – but consensual sex between grownups remains a no-no. It’s embarrassing, really.

Quick Picks

The Varsity theater downtown is holding over the blockbuster Barbie and Disney’s latest theme park ride adaptation, Haunted Mansion.

Currently rotating through Silverspot’s Flashback Cinema series: Quentin Tarantino’s bonkers 2009 war film Inglourious Basterds (Aug. 13 and 16) and the 2004 weepie The Notebook (Aug. 20 and 23). Interesting double feature. Also look for a 10th anniversary reissue of the immortal Sharknado on Aug. 15.

Next Wednesday, August 16, the Chelsea’s Late Night series will screen the 2007 dystopian freakout Southland Tales, from director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko). The Chelsea is also holding over the very fun comedy Theater Camp.

This Saturday, August 12, the Lumina’s Movies on the Green outdoor series will present the near-perfect film specimen that is The Princess Bride. Inconceivable!

Glenn McDonald is a Chapel Hill freelance writer and contributing film critic with Indy Week.

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