Monster movie Sea Fever takes loner marine biology student Siobhan (Hermione Corfield), out of theoretical studies in a laboratory and into practical reality on a trawler in the grey and churning Atlantic off the west of Ireland.
As Siobhan boards the boat she is met with cool caution by the crew, which soon turns to horror as she reveals herself to be… wait for it… a redhead. Redheads are apparently a harbinger of doom for boat crews, so the crew decide the sailing will be cursed. Predictably they are not wrong, when desperate Captain Gerard (Dougray Scott) steers the crew into forbidden waters in the hope of snagging a huge catch, only to find that the crew become the prey as the boat gets ensnared by a large and mysterious creature, putting them in mortal peril.
Siobhan finds herself thrown in with the kind of rag-tag tickbox crew you would expect from what is essentially a creature feature. Trawler Captain Gerard and his wife Freya (Connie Nielsen) look longingly at a picture of a little girl in a locket around her neck. Crew members Sudi and Omid talk of what they’ll do once they finally get paid and obvious love interest Johnny (Jack Hickey) shows himself to be a kind-hearted charmer. Meanwhile grandmother figure Ciara (Olwen Fouere) fusses around them like a mother hen. All the characters can be reduced to one-liners, which is not unwarranted given that the best Man vs Nature films need to get into the action quickly, but often feels reductive here.
What starts out as a promising, if throwaway, premise (Alien meets Contagion) never really takes off, as the film waivers back and forth from the serious to the outright daft. Most of the cast put in pretty decent performances, but the very odd collection of accents (I still don’t know if Connie Nielsen was supposed to be Irish) and shift in tone makes it an odd film to get to grips with.
Neasa Hardiman does a good job of keeping scenes fairly pacey, but this sometimes feels at odds with the script as characters grapple with some clunky dialogue and exposition. Scenes which seem to hint at more to come are cut short and issues never really revisited, giving way instead to scenes of gore and violence.
The creature itself is an interesting design but one we only get to see briefly and early on, which does feel a bit at odds with the initial set-up, denying the audience a boss battle and instead moving from phosphorescent menace to parasitic foe. While this offers some psychological chills it is ultimately unsatisfying.
Sea Fever somehow never really finds it’s footing, as it oscillates from being Alien-esque discovery of new life to commentary on climate change and somewhat accidentally into a sermon on the importance of quarantine. The mix between gory scenes of eye explosions and elegant direction somehow don’t feel like good bedfellows, leaving Sea Fever feeling more of a feverish mess than B-movie delight.
Directed by: Neasa Hardiman
Written by: Neasa Hardiman
Cast: Connie Nielsen, Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott
Solitary marine-biology student Siobhán endures a week on a ragged fishing trawler, miserably at odds with the close-knit crew. But out in the deep Atlantic, an unfathomable life-form soon ensnares the boat. As members of the crew now succumb to a strange infection, Siobhán must overcome her alienation and win their trust — before everyone is lost.