In their 3.5 Bloody Knife review, E.L. King calls Sea Fever a sci-fi body horror film reminiscent of the parasitic alien films of the 1980s. If The Thing and The Abyss procreated, you'd get this film.
This science fiction horror thriller film written and directed by Neasa Hardiman was a tension filled dive into the solitary life of protagonist Siobhán (Hermione Corfield, Rust Creek) who is forced to endure a week on a ragged fishing trawler, miserably at odds with the close-knit crew to complete her studies as a marine biologist. While aboard the vessel is taken off course by it's captain into an uncharted area of the ocean known only as "the exclusion zone" where something big lurks beneath the water.
Nautical horror films are some of my favorite. They swallow you up into their dark depths not knowing when or if you'll see the light of day again. The way that science fiction label DUST (Gunpowder & Sky) introduces the film before it begins sets us up for the terror beneath the waves. Here, we primarily follow the crew in the tight quarters of the tiny vessel they share as it creaks and breathes against the ocean while the creature that has latched on digests it and the crew from the outside in and the inside out. The sea monster leaves no possibility for escape and can't be reasoned with. After becoming ensnared by the creature, some of the crew of the Niamh Cinn Oir and Siobhán travel out to a nearby vessel to investigate only to find death, decay and horror inside. Presuming it's the result of the passengers going mad with Sea Fever, they return to the trawler with more questions than answers.
"Sea Fever; one of them gets it... then spreads it around."
Sea Fever is really less about the creature or parasite the crew encounters than it is about the characters, their relationships, their trust or lack there of in each other and their fight for survival. It's a sci-fi body horror film reminiscent of the parasitic alien films of the 1980s. If The Thing (1982) and The Abyss (1989) procreated, you'd get this film. Unlike those films, don't expect any jump scares despite the tight, dark and claustrophobic atmosphere. Early on, we get a glimpse at parts of the creature and images that indicate just how massive the creature is when the crew goes for a dive to find out what's caused the trawler to come to a near complete halt in the middle of the ocean.
The film also shares some similarities with Alien (1979) when the members of the crew discuss that work below deck discuss their shares with the captain. While the setting is different, the deep sea versus deep space, Hardiman clearly took a lot of inspiration for Sea Fever from it's science fiction predecessors. As the parasite begins to spread after nesting in the trawler's water supply, heroine Siobhán, is tasked with figuring out how to prevent the spread of infection as the crew is essentially eaten alive from the inside. I quite liked every tension filled moment of it, right down to the Irish superstation that Siobhán's red hair is a bad omen from the start of the voyage.
Sea Fever is a lovely slow burn with dazzling underwater imagery and gory body horror sure to make your skin crawl. The moments of body horror are never excessive, but just startling enough to unnerve the audience. The entire cast gives stunning, tense and believable performances. The film left me with more questions than answers, but I didn't feel particularly vexed by the unknown, it just left me wanting more.
Now playing on Hulu.