Sea Fever is an effectively creepy oceanic take on The Thing with an added urgency from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sea Fever follows an aspiring marine biologist as she begins an internship on a fishing trawler. Tasked with studying whatever creatures of the deep the ship pulls up in its nets, our heroine is forced to deal with so much more as a bioluminescent squid-like creature ensnares the ship and lets loose a lethal parasite among the crew.
Sometimes, when watching a movie, a little moment occurs that shifts your experience entirely. While it may constitute a modest spoiler, Sea Fever’s ascendant last act feels like a prescient dive into our modern quarantine times. The film’s last third sees the surviving members of the crew forced to confront the possibility of quarantine. The tension really cuts to the core of much of what we’re seeing in society today. Writer/director Neasa Hardiman (Jessica Jones) effectively depicts stark conflict between an educated, relatively well-off scientist advocating total quarantine and blue collar paycheck-to-paycheck fishermen demanding their freedom to work. The conflict we see in society so clearly today between the public health and personal determinism is brought to life through the character’s differing value judgments. Such sage observation of human behavior cannot help but paint the rest of the film in a more positive light.
For the rest of its run time, Sea Fever is an effectively chilling low budget horror thriller. An Irish production, Sea Fever liberally sparkles in moments of Gaelic mysticism. Those teases help give the proceedings a somewhat Odyssean epic feel despite what is fundamentally a small constrained story. Despite obvious budget limitations, the primary creature design is effective. Now, the plot here is not all that different from The Thing transported to the North Atlantic, but that simple premise is elevated by Hardiman’s strong sense of place. The film’s primary location, a dilapidated fishing trawler, is made up entirely of weathered and rusted angles. Light is in short supply. It all creates an effectively creepy environment. Hardiman’s restraint – this is not the sort of movie to rely on jump scares – helps craft a real sense of dread.
The actors are all reasonably effective. Hermione Corfield (Slaughterhouse Rulez) makes for a compelling lead. Her mixture of nerdy insight and quiet confidence crafts a convincing figure. Dougray Scott (Mission: Impossible 2) and Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) are both sufficiently compelling as the married couple who run the fishing rig. Nielsen in particular is an effective foil for the tensions that arise from the possibility of quarantine.
Sea Fever is not perfect. The film’s action climax is poorly staged and serves to expose the film’s modest budget. Many of the characters are fairly one note and seem to serve little purpose beyond succumbing to the film’s creature. Also, it appears the plot drives the creature’s actions more than any sort of consistent set of rules dictating its behavior. All told, however, Sea Fever presents a reasonably compelling new take on classic genre fair. It benefits from its Irish setting and from some sage observations on human behavior heightened in the face of our own global health crisis.
Sea Fever is available to stream in the U.S., and will be released in the U.K. on Blu-ray & Digital HD on April 24th.
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