Sea Fever is a tight, claustrophobic little slice of water-borne horror that mostly hits the marks it aims for. Written and directed by Neasa Hardiman (Happy Valley, Jessica Jones) it stars Hermione Corfield (Fallen, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Siobhán, a researcher who has set out aboard a fishing trawler to observe their catch and record any anomalies. Her thing is patterns, trending, observing results and extrapolating outcomes. So far, so fairly normal, but things change when the ship encounters a curious creature beneath the waves that not only stops them dead in their tracks, it infects the ship and crew with parasitic larvae that… well, let’s just say that their effect on the human body isn’t great, but is gloriously visceral.
There’s a definite callback to movies like John Carpenter’s The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Invaders from Mars, with paranoia, stress and fear as much the enemy as anything else as the steel walls of their tiny floating world press in and the bodies begin to mount. The only real complaint here is that in some ways it feels like a film that couldn’t quite decide if it wanted to be the monster movie it starts out as, or the biological horror film it becomes as the film progresses. It’s also rather a timely movie for right now, with the world struggling with the Covid-19 virus, as the crew struggle with the ethics of quarantining themselves even if it might cost them their lives.
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Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible 2, Hitman) plays the captain, Gerard, a man determined to find the fish and fill his boat by any means necessary, even to the point of ignoring warnings about places he shouldn’t be going. It’s an understated turn from the actor but a good one. Starting out cocky and sure of himself, as the situation spirals out of control the cracks begin to show as he realises just how bad their situation is and how out of his depth (no pun intended) he is. His wife Ciara is played by Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, Wonder Woman), providing a calming, steadying presence even as her husband struggles to hold things together. As the film progresses she is shown to be someone capable of doing whatever is required.
The rest of the cast turn in solid performances, with each character quickly established and easy to recognise, allowing the audience to connect to them and actually care about their ultimate fate, something that more mainstream horror often seems to forget in its rush to outdo the competition with jump scares and gore. There’s some nice backstory and some great use of show-don’t-tell which is always good to see in a horror film.
Soundtrack duties fall to Christoffer Franzen (At the End of the Day, In I Dimman) and it’s quite a sparse, ambient affair. Not a bad thing by any means, but probably not something that’s going to stand out too well on its own. There’s also the track ‘Shallows’ by the band Daughter that plays over the end credits which is rather nice and has some rather on the nose lyrics for a film set on the open water.
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In some ways, Sea Fever is a difficult film to review. It’s not a great film, nor is it a bad one. It does everything well, but none of it is outstanding. The acting is good, the story is good, the creature design (what little we see) is good. It’s all just so… competent. It’s fine. It’s all just FINE. There’s nothing that stands out as being particularly bad, but nor is there anything that can be held up for specific praise. Except the eyeball scene. That was fucking awesome.
It’s unlikely to be a smash hit with genre fans, nor is it memorable enough to strive for cult status. I mean, there are definitely worse ways to spend a little over 90 minutes of your life, certainly, and if you get the opportunity to watch this then I can recommend it but I’m not sure it’s worth going out of your way to hunt up.
Sea Fever is out on Blu-ray and Digital HD on 24th April from Signature Entertainment.