Sea Fever Review
Sea Fever is a nasty little thriller with plenty of bite and a surprisingly timely storyline. Prepare to be thoroughly creeped out by Neasa Hardiman’s sea-set tale of paranoia and parasites.
The film begins with our unlikely heroine Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) avoiding her celebrating peers in a lab of some sorts. She would much rather spend her time alone with a microscope rather than cake and bubbly but unfortunately, Siobhán is about to be stuck out on sea with a boat full of strangers for research purposes. Once on board, she finds it difficult to bond with the other crew members, not least because they see her red hair as a bad omen and immediately become worried they’ll run into trouble with her on board. Indeed, the ship is soon struck by a large creature and soon crew members begin feeling sick and acting strangely.
Sea Fever’s simple premise and straightforward narrative make this a bare-bones thriller of the best kind. It’s a little heavy on exposition in its first third, but as things start going horribly wrong, writer-director Hardiman keeps things moving swiftly. The film can easily be compared to The Thing and Alien, both tense creature-features almost exclusively set in a single location although at times it feels a little too much like The Thing on a boat. While the film isn’t necessarily able to craft its own, unique identity, it’s still an undeniably fascinating and thrilling ride.
Hermione Corfield is compelling as Siobhán. She finds herself alienated from the rest of the crew, both by choice as well as involuntarily due to, of all things, her red hair. She is a well fleshed out character, especially once she begins to find her footing and grows more and more confident amid the striking tragedy. Corfield navigates her tricky character with ease and remains the voice of reason once trouble brews. Even when things get a little too silly, she keeps the narrative grounded with her understated, yet effective performance.
Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen provide great support as the more senior members of the crew, but their characters, along with the rest of the supporting cast, feel paper-thin and underdeveloped. If these characters felt more like real people, the sense of threat would feel greater and stakes higher towards the end.
Sea Fever feels even more timely as the crew face the possibility of infecting people on mainland. Siobhan encourages captain Freya to introduce a full quarantine for the crew in the fear of the unknown parasite and the repercussions it could have if brought on the mainland. Fear, paranoia and anxiety make people unpredictable and dangerous as Sea Fever quickly proves and the film becomes a sobering look at our own current reality.
The film’s biggest disappointment is the lack of the monster Hardiman teases early on. This is clearly a monster movie, but with very little monster onscreen. The terrifyingly large, tentacled creature lurks in the sea and is only glimpsed briefly, too large to fit in the frame. And while less is often more, it could have been shown it a little more. In Sea Fever, perhaps the sea is the biggest monster here, able to hide such creatures, and while there’s a delightful amount of gore and nasty injuries, none of it really registers or has the desired impact.
There are also a few lines of dialogue which ring hollow; one crew member claims he can’t swim at a critical moment and it’s hard to believe anyone would be let on a boat without the ability to fend for themselves (if it came to that). Towards the beginning of the film, the dialogue feels heavy-handed but once the conflict is well under way, the film begins to impress.
Yes, it takes a while to get going, but once it does, this cautionary screen-tale accelerates at a dizzying pace towards its terrifying ending. The film often tries to lull you into submission, into believing all is well and the danger has surpassed, only to stab you in the back as soon as you think it’s safe to breathe again. Sea Fever is a claustrophobic exercise in paranoia and alienation and well worth your precious time.
Sea Fever arrives on VOD platforms from April 24.