‘Sea Fever’ is a nautical Sci-Fi chiller (somewhat blatantly) merging elements of genre benchmarks ‘Alien’ and ‘The Thing’, to give a predictable, but entertaining 90 minutes of tentacle ridden tension.
The film’s plot follows Siobhan, a socially awkward marine biologist, joining the crew of a fishing vessel chartered by the university to take the student out to study marine fauna behaviour patterns. However, driven partly by intrigue, but more so by greed, the ship’s captain makes an ill-fated decision to ignore the ‘exclusion zone’ warnings in order to exploit the areas rich fishing stocks. Once there, they make a deadly discovery, and despite trying to leave the unidentified creature behind, they quickly realise that they may have become host to its parasitic offspring.
Sound familiar, yeah?
But if the formula works, why mess with it? And here at least ‘Sea Fever’ does us all a favour and just gets on with it! The character introduction and backstory type stuff are told relatively briskly, through conversations and banter on the ship, or by direct introduction as Siobhan comes aboard and is introduced. There are your standard tropes – the shy but soon to be leader, the stoic old captain, the love interest, the one whose got a kid and you hope doesn’t die, and then the couple of others, who, well don’t have anything and so you know will die – but they are well enough acted that they feel a little more than B-movie fodder.
On that note ‘Sea Fever’, despite struggling for an original idea plot-wise, does flourish with attention to detail. First off, the whole affair is beautifully shot, and despite the grimy setting of the fishing trawler it is a very slick production overall. That’s not to say its missed the point of what makes a good horror set, the vastness of the ocean, the lack of contact with the wider world (of course the radio was broken in the first creature attack) and even the small vessel with its claustrophobic corridors, lower deck and cramped crew quarters all add to the films atmosphere. The tension is well crafted, especially so when you consider it draws you in despite the plot sailing through some very familiar territory with regards to its set pieces. As an Irish production there are some nice little local nuances which help give the film some much needed identity, from us hearing some maritime folk lore to the general unease about having the unlucky red-headed Siobhan on board.
It is a shame that the plot writing wasn’t a bit bolder to steer ‘Sea Fever’ into some uncharted territory.
With regards to the horror and the films creature, points are scored here to. The initial creature encounters are similar to that of ‘Jaw’s’ in that we just get to see and hear the boat being jostled as well as a tension building set of increasingly growing set of blips on the ships sonar/radar display. Replace a giant shark with an even larger sea anemone type creature and you’ve got the idea; not all that scary though is it?
No. Whilst the creature design and effects are decent enough, I was a little taken back (initially) at what presented itself, but then what came next more than made up for it.
As I said in the opener, the bulk of this film sees the understandably rattled crew playing a cruel guessing and waiting game as a result of the creature leaving its spores incubating in them. This leads to further tension, who (if anyone) is infected, and what’s the best thing to do? The human condition kicks in, some want to get back to the mainland hospital, others think it best they quarantine themselves. Its not all guessing either, cinema teaches one thing about parasites, what goes in, wants to come out – and its not using natures exit either. Ridley Scott brought us the infamous ‘chest-burster’, well Neasa Hardiman presents ‘the eye burster’; grim yes?! Delightfully so.
The rest of the film plays out very much as you would expect, and it definitely has the internal tensions (ala John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’) keeping things as fraught as they need to be, all the whilst Siobhan gets her chance to use her ‘specialist’ smugness to play the role of both moral and literal leader.
Overall, what ‘Sea Fever’ may lack in originality it makes up for in pitching itself just right. It’s a copy, but a good copy, and it certainly delivers what you want from a creature feature. It’s safe for sure, but it’s got the balance between tension and gruesome just right to keep it on course.