Written & directed by Neasa Hardiman
Starring: Connie Nielsen, Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Olwen Fouéré, Jack Hickey, Ardalan Esmaili, Dag Malmberg & Elie Bouakaze
I’ve always said that I don’t have any phobias, but even I have to admit that the ocean is a freaky place. Down in the dark depths where nitrogen bubbles in your system can cause death or (at least according to most deep-sea related horror films) crush a human body into a layer of cheap paté. And even at levels of such intense pressure, things still exist. Fish that look as if Dr Frankenstein let Igor have a go at fashioning his own creation but with a tube of crazy glue and scraps from the waste bin.
Things thrive down there in the dark.
Things that look as if they have been dragged out of a waste disposal and then turned inside out.
However, amongst all of this horror, there are creatures of incredible beauty too. Creatures that glow with bioluminescence that flit mysteriously like lost souls in the darkness.
There are other creatures too, ones that haven’t even been discovered yet.
They are down there.
Down in the blackness.
Sea Fever is about a shy but devoted science student named Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) who joins the crew of a fishing boat run by husband and wife team of Freya (Connie Nielsen) and Gerard (Dougray Scott).
Siobhan’s job whilst onboard is to photograph and study the catch to check for anything anomalous.
The crew are a superstitious bunch though and, for whatever reason, consider red-headed Siobhan to be bad luck. I’m going to presume though that this only extends to women with red hair as I don’t think anyone would consider my straggly gingery beard to be a harbinger of doom, but you never know.
A lot of people are wary of gingers after all.
Actually, this slight ambiguity with why some of the crew consider Siobhan to be bad luck is one of the things I like about the movie.
It doesn’t feel the need to spoon-feed information to the viewer.
For example, you know that Freya and Gerard have lost their daughter, just from a picture that’s carried in a locket and from the figurehead on the prow and how they react to these items. It’s never directly mentioned, but it’s there for anyone paying attention. I’m guessing that the name of the boat, Niamh Cinn Oir, is linked to their daughter (who I am going to presume may have been called Niamh) and possibly to the events that unfold.
Speaking of the name of the boat, it appears as if the nameplate on the front has been bolted on and is maybe covering up a pre-existing name, something else that is considered to be bad luck amongst sea-faring types.
Back to the story and all seems well until the boat detects a large object heading toward them. They become caught up on the mysterious object, which investigation reveals to be a previously unknown organism.
Stuck in place the crew attempt to find a way out of their predicament but unfortunately, the organism seems to be infecting them and the situation turns more deadly than they could have predicted.
Sea Fever is written and directed by Neasa Hardiman who has plenty of credits for short films and episodes of TV shows ranging from Tracey Beaker Returns to Casualty to Jessica Jones but Sea fever is her feature film.
The look of the movie is great, everything seems relevant and is all part of the storytelling with none of the screen time being wasted. The cast all do a great job of portraying believable characters and I can’t think of a single moment that had me rolling my eyes in disbelief.
Sure, the tendrils from some unknown sea creature may feel Lovecraftian to some and the crew trying to find out who is infected and who isn’t may give reminders to John Carpenter’s The Thing, but Sea Fever is its own beast and uses Irish Folklore for much of what is occurring.
Niamh Cinn Oir is mentioned for as well as being the name of the boat, she is also a figure from Irish Folklore. In addition, there are plenty of mythical islands that have supposedly appeared off the Western coast of Ireland.
There is a bit of a downside to this, however, as I found toward the end of the film it did feel as though it was floundering a little bit. The tension that had been built up slipped away and after the first crew death, things just felt a little too calm, with other incidents not having as much impact, or rather, not as much of an impact as they probably should have. It all started to feel as if it was just part of their day to day routine, which in a way it was, but I would have liked the pace to have had a bit more urgency. That being said, there was a fantastic line later on where a member of the crew had lost their eyesight due to the infection and was asking if their eyes were open or closed as they were unable to tell.
Even though I found the film to lose some of its impact later on, it’s still one that I recommend. The visuals, be they physical or CGI are all great and, as I mentioned previously, are all part of telling the story.
It’s just a shame that the final act of the film just loses its impetus and stayed too vaguely mysterious than it did creepy.
Sometimes keeping things close to the chest works well, but there does need to be some sort of reveal after that, to make the hidden elements have a pay-off and that doesn’t really happen here.
Sea Fever is an engrossing and well shot sci-fi thriller with great direction and acting with a few horror elements thrown in as well, but it just misses the mark from being an essential watch. I still recommend that you check it out if you have the time, but I don’t think it’s a movie that people will go back to for repeat viewings.
Sea Fever is out now on Blu-ray
amazon prime in the UK
And on amazon prime in the US