DIRECTOR: NEASA HARDIMAN | SCREENPLAY: NEASA HARDIMAN | STARRING: HERMIONE CORFIELD, DOUGRAY SCOTT, CONNIE NIELSEN, JACK HICKEY | RELEASE DATE: APRIL 24TH (IN SELECTED UK CINEMAS, DVD, AND DIGITAL HD)
There are worse things than borrowing freely from stone-cold classics like Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Sea Fever justifies the appropriation by making these elements its own, and coming up with something different: a smart thriller that pits superstition and science so skillfully, it makes your own beliefs waiver a bit.
Helmed by TV vet Neasa Hardiman (Happy Valley, Jessica Jones), Sea Fever makes a disagreeable marine biologist the audience stand-in. Forced by her teacher to take a more hands-on approach to her discipline, Siobhan (up-and-comer Hermione Corfield) joins the crew of a vessel for what’s supposed to be a routine trawling trip.
It’s not a good time for fishing. The skipper, Gerard (Dougray Scott) and his wife Freya (Connie Nielsen) are deep in debt and willing to take risks, including venturing in areas they shouldn’t. They run afoul of a massive crustacean with tendrils that secrete green slime, rich in parasites. As it often happens in this circumstances, the critters are bad, but human nature is worse. It doesn’t help that Siobhan is a ginger, a red flag for sailors for centuries.
Granted, we have seen this story before (bearded men facing shape-shifting aliens in Antarctica come to mind), but the Siobhan character delivers a different approach this old tale. A true believer in science, the biologist holds on to reason for dear life as the rest of the crew succumbs to emotional outbursts and irrational beliefs. The film’s fascinating conclusion is that the scientific method is somewhat inhuman, but always right.
Intelligent people doing the sensible thing in the face of danger is rare in the horror genre and that alone elevates Sea Fever above its peers. Strong character work and a plethora of icky moments are the cherry on the cake. Director Neasa Hardiman amplifies the claustrophobic nature of a ship and uses jump-scares sparsely, but in the right moments.
At a running time of 90 minutes, there is no fat in Sea Fever. Even more remarkable, the movie sticks the landing by bringing together tradition and science. For all the gore and death that preceded it, the ending is rather uplifting. How weird is that.