‘The Last Voyage of the Demeter’ Director André Øvredal Is Going Full Dark: “This is basically ‘Alien’ on a ship in 1897” [Interview]
Today horror fans everywhere got their first glimpse of Universal’s major summer release, The Last Voyage of the Demeter. Based on what director André Øvredal considers to be the most frightening chapter in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark filmmaker is preparing to unleash a vampire movie unlike we have ever seen before.
To get some insight on this hotly anticipated release, I had the good luck of getting to sit down with this horror icon to discuss the biggest project he’s ever produced, his creative relationship with Guillermo del Toro, and if we will be seeing a follow up to Scary Stories.
Check out the trailer for The Last Voyage of the Demeter, then take a peek at my conversation with director André Øvredal:
Dread Central: Have you worked on this scale of film before?
André Øvredal: No, absolutely not. It’s definitely by far the biggest production I’ve ever been involved with, so that was very exciting. I like to keep the movie living and breathing as I’m shooting it so as not to be too rigid about the way I plan it. But still, you walk on every day with a very pre-planned set of how to shoot it, how to block it. You prepare as much as you can because you’re burning a lot of money every day.
DC: This movie was in development hell for two decades before you got involved. Why do you think that is?
AØ: It’s a very complex and potentially hard film to shoot, and that also, of course, indicates that it will cost some money. I don’t really know the backstory. It’s so complex that, as you say, it’s two decades, so I have no idea, really. But considering that so many great film directors have been involved over these years, I think that there has to be something other than the quality of the talent involved that has been holding it back from being shot. It must be the scale of it. It was a difficult film to make, but not more than you would expect, in a way.
DC: You became involved around the same time as Amblin and Dreamworks. Were you directly in touch with Steven Spielberg?
AØ: No. He’d been shooting two movies back-to-back basically through our entire production. And we were shooting during COVID in Europe. Even in post-production, we were heavily closed down on the COVID thing, testing every day for, I feel like a year. We didn’t see many people, we were very isolated in the process from the beginning to the end.
DC: As a genre fan, what vampire films have left their mark on you?
AØ: I mean, of course, I was about to say Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but they kind of all are. But a couple of Draculas, of course, had a big impact on me. I was around 21 when Francis Ford Coppola’s came out. And of course, Nosferatu, the old one; really amazing movies, both of them. So, those would be numbers one and two.
Dread Central: Do you think it’s a coincidence that we’re getting big vampire movies like Last Voyage and the Nosferatu remake in the same year?
AØ: Well, I mean, this weekend, there’s a new Dracula movie coming out [Renfield], so that’s clearly indicating that there is an interest. And Nosferatu has been planned for a while, which I’m so excited about. And I think Dracula seems to always be an intriguing character and an intriguing tale to tell for filmmakers, for studios … for anyone. It’s just one of those enduring tales of horror. It’s literally the most famous villain in Western culture, isn’t it? I mean, who can beat Dracula, in a way? Darth Vader, I think, is the only one I can think of immediately that is on the same scale…
DC: There have been so many depictions of Dracula, often sort of sexy and romantic, but other times quite scary and feral. It seems like you’ve gone the scary route for this film. Is there any sense of romance here, or is this just pure horror?
AØ: No, I mean, this basically Alien on a ship in 1897, where Dracula is the monster, and we are following the crew, the poor crew, who is just dealing with this enormous power, with this creepy presence that they don’t understand that is hunting them for blood night after night. That’s kind of been our aim, to make a scary Dracula movie, a scarier Dracula movie than many have been because, as you say, they have had a romantic flare, and there is so much to the novel.
DC: In terms of the creature design, did you have any specific inspiration?
AØ: I mean, he appears in [many] forms in the film, not just one. Of course, we are very inspired by Nosferatu and also even descriptions from the book and the idea of a bat. “What is a bat? How would that be in a movie, in our movie?”
DC: How did you get involved in collaborating with Guillermo del Toro?
AØ: I remember he tweeted about The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which was released in 2016. And he was really so complimentary about it. Eventually, about six months later, he was working on… Well, I found out that he was working on a movie called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and he was to direct it. Then he decided to take a break and actually focus on the release and Oscar campaign, presumably of The Shape of Water. The producers amongst themselves talked and ended up with me as one of their potential directors for it. And soon, I was lucky enough to be the chosen one.
Dread Central: I’ve heard that there are rumors about a follow-up film to Scary StoriesTo Tell in the Dark. Are you still collaborating with Guillermo del Toro in any other way?
AØ: I mean, he’s been busy. I’ve been busy with this movie, of course. So I don’t have any current collaborations with him, which in a way, I regret. It was a wonderful, amazing experience, but such is life. But I think that… with, Scary Stories 2, I mean, we’re trying to crack it for sure…
DC: You’ve directed a lot of classics; Scary Stories, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, and Trollhunter. Which one has left, would you say, the biggest impact on horror fans?
AØ: Horror fans are a very specific group in a way; it feels like The Autopsy of Jane Doe has hit them. Because it seems to be hitting people on a slightly playful note, but it is a horror movie with the capital H. It’s not pretending to be anything, but it’s also… The script has such sophistication and so much built-in dread. So that one seems to be hitting horror fans. I think, generally, maybe Trollhunter might still be the one that most people I talk to mentioned, more maybe than Jane Doe. But I’m not keeping track.
DC: I often will see The Autopsy of Jane Doe on lists of the scariest horror films of all time. Why do you think that is?
AØ: That’s amazing. I mean, I’m so lucky that movie is so well received. It’s kind of crazy. But the why… I mean, it’s a very focused movie. It’s a very kind of … haunted house. It’s really well constructed, that screenplay. And it’s just really such a great script. And also the fact that it’s a mystery that leaves you wanting to know more and more and more. I think that aspect of a horror movie is sometimes forgotten or overlooked, that it needs to be mentally intriguing and not just scary on a very visceral level. And I think that helps that movie a lot.
DC: What can fans expect from the scares in The Last Voyage of the Demeter? Are there going to be a lot of them?
AØ: Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot of existential horror in this movie as well. And yes, it’s scary, I hope. I mean, of course, the audience has to react to it and find out by themselves if they find it scary, but I think it is. And yeah, it’s a scary horror movie.
DC: Was there ever a film that disturbed you as a child and possibly lead you into the world of horror?
AØ: I saw The Omen when I was too young. Poltergeist. I think I saw Poltergeist when I was too young, and that movie really… That movie scared me a lot when I was a kid because I just totally remember the scene with the kid counting down between the lightning flash and the thunder and how you’re expecting that grueling-looking tree to just do something. And it did.
DC: Has it crossed your mind that you’ve come full circle now working with Amblin?
AØ: That’s kind of an amazing feat in itself that I don’t even… Or an amazing turn of events, I would say. Yeah, of course, it’s awesome.
DC: Now that this film is finished, what’s next for you? And can it hopefully be Scary Stories 2?
AØ: It can, or beyond that, I don’t know? I mean, it’s very open right now. Trying to just relax a little bit and see where the world leads. But yeah, Scary Stories 2 could be it…
Lastly, have you checked out the trailer for The Last Voyage of the Demeter yet? If so, what did you think? Let us know on Twitter via @DreadCentral. We’re always around to chat about all things André Øvredal.