“Sea Fever” (2019)
Running time: 95 minutes
Written and directed by: Neasa Hardiman
Featuring: Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen
Gerard: [on the corpse strewn boat] “Sea Fever; One Of Them Gets It… Then spreads it around.”
Siobhán: “Doesn’t explain his eyes.”
Released recently on DVD is the horror “Sea Fever” (2019) a mostly set at sea story that has elements of H.P. Lovecraft as well as any number of other tropes seen in horror movies over the past fifty years, including any number of creature features that deal with the unknown. Now while that may not sound like anything original, it does have a few elements in its favour, they are a very good cast of actors led by Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen, some amazingly clear underwater footage that looks crystal clear even on DVD and some high tension that only increases throughout the narrative of the movie. I greatly enjoyed this movie fir exactly what it is, a direct to DVD horror that surprises more than it has to, including having some wide open shots that any big budget movie would kill for.
“Sea Fever” is based around Siobhan, a scientist studying faunal behavioural patterns, who purchases a place on the fishing trawler the Niamh Cinn Óir, manned by a crew of six. As they set off, the Coast Guard alerts them that their planned destination, which is rich with fish, is in an exclusion zone. Unbeknownst to the others, Gerard takes them into the zone anyway; he needs a large haul of fish on this outing to keep the ship. From here there are a number of discoveries that push the crew to a situations and a climax that many might see coming, but the way in which these are handled with the sparing use of special effects and gore mean it becomes something far better and greater than what it might have been in lessor hands.
Written and directed by Neasa Hardiman “Sea Fever” has many of the designs and elements that are present in someone who has far more cinematic experience than Hardiman actually has. In fact this is the Irish directors first feature as previous work has all been on television, however that work has been in a variety of high profile and successful projects that span different genres. This work has come into play in this movie that is at once a genre piece but also involves people at the centre and not some monster, although of course there has to be one. Like the best genre movies this movie is not ultimately about a creepy monster from the deep it is about the relationships between the crew on the ship, the new person who is at the centre of the terror and how these people all relate to each other over the course of their adventure. The movie also explores trust and knowledge, how these two things are related, what happens when a relative newcomer enters a place she knows little about, but then becomes an expert in what they are all facing. Interestingly the crew refer to themselves as family but most of them all have real family off the ship, when this is tested it becomes clear what some of the crew feel about each other which can be a revelation to some and not to others. In actual fact this more of a drama than horror or sci-fi.
The movie has two well known actors in Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen who anchor the movie with their performances as well as being the pivot point for the ship and the crew which in some ways you would expect, but the lead of the movie is definitely Hermione Corfield. Corfield who is not the most experienced of actors has appeared in a few action movies so she has a strength and determination that shines through even amongst some more experienced actors. She portrays a person that is a little lost, a loner who must convince people of her expertise as well as a solution that is not palatable to anyone on board. She carries the movie much like a last girl does but has an understanding of where her part is going without singling the ending of the movie which is something that is harder to do than it sounds. All the actors are excellent in what must have been a difficult shoot in small surroundings as well as physical in the outdoors on water.
“Sea Fever” has a unique look above and below the water line as well as above and below the fishing vessel which is a credit to the director and to the cinematographer, Ruairí O’Brien, who like the director has much experience on television but not a vast amount in feature films. It is a credit to both of them how the movie looks as it never seems dull, tired or worst of all, cheap. That is not to say that movie is ultra low budget because it isn’t. “Sea Fever” could have had at least a limited theatrical release as it does look great, I watched it on DVD and was surprised by how the picture popped. the special effects are very good, used sparsely but when you see the ‘monster’ it looks unique, meaning and scary.
I recommend “Sea Fever” highly and it would be a welcome addition to any collection, my only negative is that I would have loved a copy on Blu-ray.