Film Review – Sea Fever (2020)

Neasa Hardiman‘s eco-horror chiller Sea Fever is the directorial debut feature for Bafta wining writer/director, who brought us the likes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Inhumans. A gripping creature feature terrifyingly resonates with the battle humanity finds itself in with a certain pandemic.

Starring Hermione Corfield as Siobhan , a marine biology student. When we first meet her, we meet her in her University lab. More interested in analyzing things through a microscope than celebrating a birthday in the adjacent room. The following day she head to the port for fishing trawler crew to take her out on an research excursion out into the seas off the west coast of Ireland.

What was supposed to be a research excursion things are turned upside down the trawler sails into an area of the sea called the ‘exclusion zone’. When they hit an unseen object and become marooned, a strange mysterious parasite infects their water supply. Soon the oozing force infiltrates the entire vessel and turning Siobhan’s journey into a claustrophobic fight for survival.

Can they stop the mysterious water borne parasite from spreading before it’s too late?

If your superstitious, bad luck is already against trawler’s crew. Siobhan has red hair and that’s bad news for fishermen. (Red Sky in morning, a sailor’s warning). When your involved in a job with a degree of danger like fishermen, superstitions and luck play an important role in the working life. The sight of Siobhan’s hair seems to hit the older crew than the younger crew. Even the trawler’s name niamh chinn óir (comes from Irish Folklore who had glowing hair ) there to give them luck.

You wonder when this film made it’s world premiere last September at the Toronto Film Festival that six-seven months later that the film’s sub plot would be resonating in the real world. Jaw dropping stuff for any filmmaker regardless how big or small budget you worked with.

Sea Fever owes a lot to those celebrated genre films like Alien, The Thing, even The Abyss to a lesser extent. Playing on the atmospheric tone of the aforementioned films , it doesn’t overstate itself either, however the film is also a  character driven film. Neasa Hardiman’s own career has been built around building up stories around solid character building.

When you look at the film, we learn minimal information but enough to just appreciate each characters situation. When we follow the crew, we know as much as them about the parasite as they do. We know there is danger but we have no clue how it spreads. When the parasite does find it’s way virtually into everything, it forces the crew into self-isolation. It’s at this stage those little things we learn about them, we start to feel empathy or even sympathy. The claustrophobia and the sense of loneliness smartly draws you in. The film’s main focus isn’t really on the parasite but on the crew itself, the psychological effects and the fear of the unknown. This resonates on the current fears we have with Covid-19 today.

Visually Sea Fever for a low budget film looks fantastic. They know there limitations and use what they have effectively well. Keeping the majority of the film on the small trawler  does keep things more practical. When they do use the special  effects like when we get a glimpse of the parasite, it’s spectacular. Like something from the pages from HP Lovecraft story. A great ambient score from Christopher Franzen gives the film an extra dimension.

The cast all give a terrific and time stoic performances. Connie Nielson (Freya in Wonder Woman), Dougray Scott ,(with a dubious Irish accent). Olwen Flouere (Mandy) actually starring in a film she speaks in her native Irish accent. Off course Hermione Corfield as the introverted Siobhan, who comes out of her shell when her expertise is needed.

Sea Fever is an intelligent, timely chiller that keeps you gripped.full of tension and atmosphere and It knows it’s own limitations.  Thanks to confident storytelling the film has, it reminds us, you didn’t need a big budget to make a brilliant film.

★★★1/2


Horror, Thriller | Ireland, 2019 | 15 |27th April 2020 (UK)| Digital HD, Blu-Ray | Signature Entertainment | Dir.Neasa Hardiman | Connie Nielsen, Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Olwen Fouéré

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