Review by Craig Draheim
Director: Neasa Hardiman
Writer: Neasa Hardiman
Starring: Connie Nielson, Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott
Sea Fever tells the tale of graduate student, Siobhan (Hermione Corfield), who is forced by her professor to join the tight-knit crew of a trawler (fishing boat) in West Ireland, because of her inability to connect with people. However, after the ship’s captains (Connie Nielson and Dougray Scott) change course to venture into a Coast Guard-restricted area for more fish, they find themselves grabbed by an unknown squid-like species, which infects the ship with its larva. Soon paranoia and hysteria set in as the crew tries to rid their vessel and themselves of the parasites before they return to shore.
It’s going to come up, so I’d rather get it out of the way now. Hardiman must have had a crystal ball when writing/directing Sea Fever, its themes are perfectly connected to our current fears as a society, thanks to COVID-19. Yet, this was written and made before this pandemic took the world by storm (Hardiman actually hinted at its connection to Greta Thunberg). This coincidental timing provides the story with a weight that feels like a sucker-punch to the gut. However, will this prove to be misfortune, as the film may never be able to sever the link between its story and the current situation, leading audiences to avoid the film since it “hits too close to home?” This theme is sledgehammered in as the film’s major debate revolves around the argument of Siobhan believing that they should wait 36 hours to make sure they too aren’t infected before returning to shore. But she faces backlash as the crew members that consider themselves a family wish to get home to a hospital. Unlike the current predicament where some people want the quarantine to be lifted so they can get their hair done and dine in at Chick-fil-a, the actors and Hardiman execute a masterful job of having the audience empathize with the complexities on both sides of the argument.
Since this is another issue brought up, I’d like to veer off the path for a second. There are tons of movies based off, inspired by, or mirroring some classic and people don’t mind. Somehow when you have an isolated crew in tight corridors facing another life form, then it’s instantly ragged on for having similarities to a 40-year-old movie (Alien and The Thing). For the majority of films that share these plot devices it is a dumb and lazy criticism. By the way, Alien is not the first to use those devices either. Sea Fever is not an exception to the majority. Hardiman provides a unique artistic voice that didn’t have me thinking about another movie until I happened to come across the online reviews when I was adding the Blu-ray to my cart immediately after the credits rolled… If that gives any indication of if I liked it or not.
As hinted above, the strength of Sea Fever lies in the characters and actors’ portrayals. Within the short runtime and limited histories of each crew member, we feel for these characters and their struggles. Hardiman does it in a way that’s tight, where the story constantly moves forward without “filler.” We are also provided with twists and turns that don’t throw you completely off but do trail from the beaten path. Within the first 15 minutes we are given the idea that we’re just getting a creature feature, then the creature quickly let’s go of their ship and we are left with the aftermath of the incident, which one finds is much more devastating. The only criticism I have on the matter is it’s one of the rare times in a movie where I wish there was an extra 10 minutes to make the build of dread that much sweeter.
Yes, I have seen films like it and I’ll probably see many more. Also, as someone who doesn’t really go out of my way for aquatic horror flicks unless I’m recommended it, I loved it and it’s easily made my top 10 of the year so far. Sea Fever is a pinnacle example that no matter the budget, spectacle, creature design, or effects, if we feel for the characters then nothing else matters.
5 out of 5