André Øvredal’s The Last Voyage of the Demeter had the dramatic flair and fear factor to be an instant horror classic; however, it’s yet another entry in a string of Dracula movies to have flopped at the box office. In decades past, the Transylvanian bloodsucker was a guaranteed hit for cinema audiences, but it appears as if viewers are holding up silver crosses and throwing holy water at the legendary vampire’s films in recent times.
It’s an interesting dilemma since genres and popular characters all go through highs and lows in popularity, but it appears as if the Count has been down for the proverbial count for almost a decade now. What is it that is keeping him from terrorising audiences once again? And is there a serious chance of him rising from the grave again? Let’s take a look at the main reason Dracula movies are flopping at the box office.
For the purpose of this article, let’s take a look at the four big Dracula movies from the past 10 years: 2014’s Dracula Untold, 2022’s The Invitation, 2023’s Renfield, and The Last Voyage of the Demeter. Each of these films attempts to do something different from traditional movies featuring the big vampire:
Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold positions Vlad the Impaler (Luke Evans) as a hero who tries to save his kingdom. It’s almost like a superhero origin story combined with Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde as he embraces the monster inside to protect his people. That being said, the monster teases taking over the man. The film cost $70 million to produce and made over $217 million at the box office. In terms of Hollywood accounting and the multipliers of three, this means the film broke even – with some spare change.
Jessica M. Thompson’s The Invitation is a modern-day Dracula story where Walter De Ville (Thomas Doherty) is the alias of the main man. In this movie, it’s revealed the Alexander family provides a bride for Dracula every generation, and now it is Evie’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) turn to take the Count’s side. Naturally, she isn’t pleased with this deal. The Invitation cost $10 million to produce and made $38 million at the global box office. Again, a slight profit; however, nothing to write home about or to get a sequel into production.
Chris McKay’s Renfield takes a more comedic approach here. In this adaptation, the Count’s trusty right-hand man Renfield (Nicholas Hoult) decides he wants out of the vampire life and to find himself. Of course, Dracula (Nicolas Cage) isn’t happy with his servant’s choice. Renfield proved to be a monumental flop at the box office, having cost $65 million to produce and only making a smidgen over $26 million.
The Last Voyage of the Demeter
André Øvredal’s The Last Voyage of the Demeter is an adaptation of the chapter “The Captain’s Log” from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s about the crew of a doomed ship who have no idea they are trapped on board with the bloodsucking monster known as Dracula (Javier Botet) as they travel from Transylvania to London. It’s a unique approach to take one of the scariest parts of the novel and turn it into a movie; however, the first week’s box office numbers are nothing to write home about. The film cost $45 million to produce but only made $6.5 million domestically. While it’s possible the international markets could assist the movie’s financials, the outlook isn’t positive at the time of writing.
Take a look at most publishers’ guidelines nowadays and they all say the same thing: no vampire and werewolf stories. Unfortunately, it has become a saturated subgenre of horror where vampires and werewolves were part and parcel of every screenplay and manuscript. It got to the point where the audience didn’t have an appetite for these monsters anymore, as they were overexposed.
Additionally, the popularity of series such as Twilight and The Vampire Diaries didn’t aid the cause. This isn’t a reflection on the quality of the franchises at all, but merely an observation about how vampires became associated with teen drama and angst. All of a sudden, Dracula isn’t so scary anymore if his peers are moping around and worried about high school romances.
To be fair, Hollywood has tried to repair this image by creating scary Dracula movies again, but it appears as if the audience isn’t quite ready for the comeback tour just yet. The question is, when – and if – they ever will be?