★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A beautifully shot and unintentionally timely creature feature highlighting the struggle between Human Nature and Science.
Directed by Neasa Hardiman
Sea Fever has been high up on my Must Watch list ever since last October when it was showing at the Brooklyn Horror Film Fest. Sadly for me, the movie was only available to folks who were physically at the festival (insert sad trombone sound here). As of April 10th, however, Sea Fever has been available for streaming so on with the show!
The story follows the close-knit crew of the Irish fishing trawler, Niaṁh Cinn Óir, as they head out to sea on a more or less routine run to catch some fish. The only thing not routine about this trip is the presence of marine biology student, Siobhán [Hermione Corfield; Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)], who’s paid for the chance to sail with them as part of her ongoing studies.
BAFTA winning writer/director Neasa Hardiman — previously working almost exclusively in television — does a great job with her debut genre feature by gradually easing the socially awkward Siobhán into being accepted by the family-like crew. And Corfield very confidently shoulders the burden of lead actor. Her character’s transformation from virtual recluse to Voice of Authority feels very organic and fits in perfectly with the circumstances.
As for the rest of the folks on the boat, while they all turn in decent enough performances their characters are all too familiar. We’ve got Freya and Gerard [Dougray Scott; TV’s Batwoman (2019-2020)] as the always-on-the-brink-of-bankruptcy owners/operators of the fishing vessel. Omid as the standard, brilliant-but-unmotivated young engineer. And Sudi [Elie Bouakaze in his debut role] as the superstitious-and-mostly-uneducated deckhand.
Just to spotlight a couple standouts, however, Connie Nielsen [Wonder Woman (2017)] as the skipper “Freya” and Ardalan Esmaili [TV’s Greyzone (2018)] as the ship’s engineer “Omid” both do exceptional jobs in their roles.
Clichés or not, though, the characters are solid and the cast has excellent chemistry together whether they’re having boisterous dinner conversation or working under pressure. For example, when their fishing trip takes an unexpected turn and they run across a massive, tentacled critter that mistakes the Niaṁh Cinn Óir for dinner.
As a bit of a departure from the usual creature feature, this isn’t a malevolent beastie. This is just “wrong place, wrong time” in an aquatic setting and on a massive scale. The hungry, bioluminescent denizen of the deep — beautifully brought to life by the special effects crew — mistakes the fishing trawler for a whale and settles in for a snack. Unfortunately for the people on board, this renders the boat immobile and spreads a nasty parasitic infection among the crew.
And this is where the film becomes a bit prescient. As it shifts from pure creature feature to incorporating elements of body-horror, Siobhán essentially becomes the voice of Science. Ways to limit infection, methods of detection, and incubation periods become hot topics. Sound familiar? This is also where we see the crew struggle with the same thing millions of people are dealing with today: stressed, uncertain, and afraid they long to be home; to be with family; to feel safe. On the other side of the coin, they’re confronted with very real possibility of infection and the frightening need for self-quarantine to protect the very ones they want to run to.
Given that Sea Fever was filmed in 2018, the filmmakers sure hit the nail on the head.
Truth be told, what really drew me to this movie was the huge creature and its crazy tentacles. When I think of enormous, hitherto unknown, betentacled critters from the depths of the briny sea I can’t help thinking there’s a Lovecraftian influence. Which, of course, is something that always makes my shriveled, blackened heart go pitter-pat. While the creature does not disappoint in any way, I’d say there’s a mild sprinkling of Lovecrafty spices in Sea Fever, but where it really shows up is in the pacing.
This is not an action movie. Sea Fever is a slow burn, deliberate affair. Think less The Meg (2018) and more AMC’s The Terror (2018 -). Not that it doesn’t have its moments as well as a few decent jump scares, but you shouldn’t expect a blistering roller-coaster ride. There’s investigation, postulation, and experimentation. It’s a whole collection of -ations as the crew desperately works to get themselves out of their nautical jam.
Sea Fever is a gorgeous movie, has a fantastic “sea monster”, and a great cast lead by some very capable women. If you like horrors from the deep, tense pacing, and wonderful Irish accents, give it a go!
Sea Fever is available for streaming from Vudu, Amazon Prime, and iTunes among others.