Sea Fever (2019) – movie review

It debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival to mixed reviews and it’s now available on VOD to buy or rent: Sea Fever, an Irish horror/sci-fi/thriller written and directed by Neasa Hardiman, sets itself into the eco-thriller / creature-feature sub-genres of horror.

I planned on watching and reviewing this movie when premiered last year at TIFF but, due to the amount of promising films I wanted to watch during the seven days of the festival, I decided to wait and catch it later… and I’m glad I did. In fact, Sea Fever has a lot of quality elements that separate it from subpar flicks within the same sub-genres, but it’s simultaneously lacking and underdeveloped in many ways. In other words, you can tell this is a directorial debut: it shows a lot of promise in the director, but it also underlines many aspects that need improvement. Let’s proceed in order, though, starting with the story.

Continue reading and check my final grade below…


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My review is also available on IMDb – Sea Fever (2019)

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Sea Fever – plot and characters

Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) is a marine biology student who joins the crew of a West of Ireland trawler to do some research connected to her PhD. Due to skipper Gerard (Dougray Scott)’s greedy decision making, the crew soon finds themselves marooned at sea, struggling for their lives as a growing parasite takes them one by one.

Other than Scott and Corfield, Sea Fever features a few other big-name actors, such as Connie Nielsen (who plays ship’s captain Freya) and Olwen Fouéré (in the role of Ciara, a religious and superstitious crew member). Alongside them, a cast of lesser-known actors play the remaining crew members: Johnny, Omid and Sudi. Sea Fever succeeds in developing them just enough within the first 30 minutes of runtime, which are dedicated to setting up characters and storyline. For the most part, every character feels like a realistic person, which definitely helps siding with each one of them when things get effed up.

A release perfectly timed with the coronavirus pandemic

As the movie progresses and the threat of the parasite intensifies, the characters’ dynamics become strangely representative of people’s different viewpoints on the current Covid-19 emergency. How can the parasite be contained? What should the characters sacrifice in order not to infect people on the land? What risks should be taken?

The perfectly-timed release of Sea Fever doesn’t make the film better (or worse) per se, but I do believe it makes it more enjoyable if you watch it these days in comparison to, say, if you’ve seen it a year ago or two years from now. Considering the film was completed and screened at festivals before coronavirus was even a thing, though, it highlights how much effort Neasa Hardiman into script and characters’ confrontation to make them believable, realistic and effective.

Scary concepts and competent execution

Speaking of effectiveness, Sea Fever features a few crucial scenes that are quite nail-biting, whether that depends on the atmospheric tension or the unexpected gore. Despite not being original in its plot (which is very reminiscent of Alien and The Thing), this film benefits a few surprises and twists along the way that make the viewing experience more compelling.

The director put a lot of care into the presentation as well, especially when it comes to the camera work. A movie like this, set in a small and contained location, could easily devolve into a quick-cut editing nightmare, but here the camera stays on the characters and floats between them in a visually appealing way that both enhances the actors’ performance and provides a more genuine feel to the watching experience.

A lot of cabin for improvement

The essentials to make Sea Fever a great horror/sci-fi movie within the sub-genre are all here, but often times they come off as unfulfilled concepts that lack something. The pacing, in particular, is quite strange and all-over-the-place: the movie picks up at one point, but then it slows down for no apparent reason, only to pick up again for a couple of scenes later on. The sound design feels clunky at times, making certain scenes distracting. The same goes for the special effects, which sometimes work fine but, in other instances, are obvious and therefore fake-looking.

One of the most jarring and off-putting elements of Sea Fever, though, is represented by the line-delivery. Maybe the director hadn’t yet learned how to deal with high-calibre actors, maybe the editor didn’t know where to cut the scene or maybe the actors themselves didn’t give their all: whatever the reason, most of the dialogue feels odd and distracting in a way that clearly wasn’t intended. The other big issue with the movie consists of Siobhan’s actions and decisions: she’s supposed to be clever and knowledgeable, but the way she deals with the parasite in certain instances is extremely dumb and illogical.

Conclusions

In conclusion, Sea Fever feels a bit like a by-the-books sci-fi/horror/thriller with a couple of elements that elevate it just a tad above many mediocre flicks in the sub-genre. I personally enjoyed most of the movie, but I don’t feel like ever watching it again.

If you like eco-thriller and creature-feature movies, I would suggest giving Sea Fever a shot. If you’re bored during lockdown, I would also recommend it: it’s really not bad and I think it’ll keep you entertained throughout. Just because it premiered at TIFF, though, don’t expect anything exceptional or artful out of it.

Rating 6

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