Director: Neasa Hardiman
Starring:Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen, Ardalan Esmaili, Elie Boukaze, Olwen Fouér, Jack Hickey.
Run Time: 89mins
Well, it is just that typical thing you don’t get a watery creature feature for ages then two come along within months of each other as hot on the heels of Underwater we now have Sea Fever. However, while both have an Alien influence, this film is an entirely more low-key and lower budget affair.
Also, while Alien is an influence on proceedings, the greater influence here is The Thing. Due to most of the story unraveling on a single location, in this case, a trawler. And also, due to the story focusing more on the increasing tensions and paranoia of the crew due to the nature of the threat. In this case, the threat is a parasite that has got into the water supply after an attack on the vessel by a “giant squid,” which drives its victims mad before killing them.
Before we get to that, we are introduced to the various characters who will soon be imperiled. First is our lead Siobhan (Corfield), a young antisocial scientist who is assigned to a trawler for a study on fishing patterns. The rest of the crew aboard are for the fairly generic bunch who can generally be summed up in one line. We have the gruff sea captain (Scott), his stoic wife (Nielsen), a twinkly first mate (Hickey), an eccentric older cook (Fouére), and the young cocksure second engineer (Bouakaze). The exception to this is the chief engineer Omid (Esmaili), who, along with our lead, is fleshed out a bit more. Partly due to this and partly due to the fine performances of Esmali and Corfield, these are the two characters that end up standing out.
Despite the weakness in characterisation most of the cast is solid and as generic as the role may be, Scott plays his salty seadog role with a real relish that is enjoyable to see.
Narratively speaking, the film also goes down some familiar avenues. Although given the current global situation, a story that involves a scientist having to convince a sceptical audience of the scale of the danger they face hits home harder now than it might otherwise have done.
So far, you may have picked up the impression this a feature not worth your time. Here you would be wrong. Yes, there are overly familiar plot elements and some two-dimensional characters. But there are a lot of strength’s here too. Chief amongst them is director Hardiman sure knows how to crank up the tension. Once the threat becomes apparent, this becomes a claustrophobic, nail-biting watch with little let up until the end. Over its runtime, there are several stand-out scenes that crackle with tension. Including one where the crew has to check each other for possible infection. Sure it is much like the famous “blood test” sequence from The Thing, but it works a treat nevertheless.
Another highlight is the effects. Particularly the gore effects. There are certainly some quality moments of skin-crawling body horror on display. And be warned if you’re squeamish about eyes, then this might not be the watch for you. Plus, given the budget level, the creature effects are outstanding. Finally, the production design from Ray Ball provides another highlight as the ship effectively becomes a character in itself.
Overall: Despite its flaws in character and narrative, Sea Fever is an effective sea-faring sci-fi horror that is heavy on claustrophobic atmospherics as well as packing in some pleasingly nasty moments of body-horror making for a solid debut feature.