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Review: Sea Fever (2020)

Sea Fever (2020)

Directed by: Neasa Hardiman

Premise: A shy biologist (Hermione Corfield) accompanies the crew of a commercial fishing boat. The vessel is infested with the larvae of an oceanic creature and the crew tries to decontaminate themselves.

What Works: Sea Fever is a biological horror film. Like similar pictures such as Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, this a film about the fear of the body being invaded by a parasitic organism and it plays to that fear effectively. Sea Fever only has a few big scare moments but it makes the most of them. The rest of the movie is more subtle. What’s frightening about Sea Fever is less about what is seen and more about the paranoia that the parasite is already inside. The threat of infestation is palatable. This is created through the film’s small scale and intimate shooting style. Most of Sea Fever takes place on a commercial trawler and the interiors are often cramped with the crew members stuck in tight quarters. The design of the movie is gritty; the boat has the look of a lived-in work space and the filmmakers emphasize details like sweat and other bodily fluids. The lack of privacy and the visceral images create an atmosphere that invokes the fear of contamination. The corporal qualities of the film’s design make the biological threat convincing. The special effects don’t look digital and the design of the creatures is not outlandish. In fact, there are moments of naturalistic wonder to Sea Fever and the characters generally behave in a way that is intelligent or at least credible. A secondary conflict emerges as the crew act out of fear and must weigh their feelings for each other, their instinct for self-preservation, and their obligation to keep the parasite from reaching the mainland. This social dimension gives the film some additional substance.

What Doesn’t: Sea Fever is a contagion story and it’s a formula we’ve seen before. The moviemakers do their genre well but quite a bit of Sea Fever is familiar. A frequent flaw of films like this is a tendency to reduce characters to types. That’s generally the case here. Aside from Hermione Corfield’s role as the biologist, who gets a bit of an arc, the characters generally lack defining features. There’s an unfulfilled opportunity in Sea Fever. In many of these films the invading organism is disgusting and must be eradicated. Sea Fever suggests something more nuanced. This idea is underdeveloped and so the film misses an opportunity to do something more innovative with its premise.

DVD extras: None.

Bottom Line: Sea Fever is a familiar genre story done very well. This movie offers a visceral experience as well as a tense story and it taps into primal fears.

Episode: #814 (August 23, 2020)