The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - SEA FEVER | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - SEA FEVER

sea fever review
A mysterious sea creature attacks the crew of a fishing trawler.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Neasa Hardiman

Starring: Hermione Corfield, Connie Nielsen, Dougray Scott, Jack Hickey, Olwen Fouéré, Ardalan Esmaili, Elie Bouakaze

sea fever poster

The premise of a disparate group of individuals battling an otherworldly creature in a remote and confined setting has been a staple of science fiction cinema since the genre's 1950s heyday. Owing as much to black and white classics like Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Thing from Another World as it does to Ridley Scott's Alien and John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, writer/director Neasa Hardiman's Sea Fever ticks enough boxes to appease hardcore fans of this sort of fare, but fails to bring enough originality and inventiveness to the table to stand out from the sci-fi crowd.

English actress Hermione Corfield pulls off an impressive Irish accent as Siobhán, a snooty marine biology student who joins a fishing expedition hoping to capture some samples of marine life for study back in the cosy confines of her college.

sea fever review

The trawler is owned by the salty seadog couple Gerard (Dougray Scott, with an often incomprehensible attempt at an Irish accent) and Freya (Connie Nielsen, with an equally bizarre brogue). Well, they own it for now at least. Having fallen into heavy debt, Gerard and Freya are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure they bring back a valuable haul of fish.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Black Phone ]

This sees them illegally enter an exclusion zone, and does indeed result in a mammoth catch. It also brings them into the domain of a mysterious, multi-tentacled sea monster, which latches its tendrils onto their boat, making them unable to move. Siobhán dives below the surface and realises what they're up against, a creature never previously encountered by man, and which is infiltrating the trawler with its glowing blue ooze.

sea fever review

Movies of this ilk generally feature two core conflicts. Firstly there's the battle between the human heroes and the monster, but secondly there's also the internecine infighting among the humans. The latter usually takes the form of scientific reasoning versus uneducated emotion, "Let's capture and study it" versus "Let's blow it to Kingdom Come!" Sea Fever is most involving when its doubling down on this secondary conflict. With her cold, book-learnin' ways, Siobhán couldn't be more out of place among the gruff working class crew of the trawler, most of whom don't take too kindly to her presence from the off. It doesn't help that she boasts a mop of red hair, which fuels an old superstition about gingers bringing doom to seafarers. To apply a Jaws analogy, Siobhán is a lone Hooper surrounded by Quints.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Ultrasound ]

Siobhán is withdrawn initially, but once the crisis sets in and her fellow travellers realise they're out of their depth, she steps up to the plate, armed with the intellectual know-how that just might save their lives. Corfield's nuanced and convincing performance goes a long way to keeping us invested, and makes up for the film's budget limitations, which force the monster to barely register on screen.

sea fever review

It's in the core conflict of human vs monster that Sea Fever comes up short. For low budget movies, it's generally best to keep the monster in the shadows for as long as possible, but Sea Fever takes this idea to such an extreme that it's easy to forget it's a monster movie. With the monster kept off screen to such a degree, the film can't quite establish its presence, and the result is a notable lack of tension. Any paranoia that might have been mined from the scenario is lost, with one of the film's main problems being how it tells us who is infected only minutes before they perish, rather than dwelling us some slow-burning dread. A riff on the famous blood test set-piece of Carpenter's The Thing pales in comparison to the original.

Some dodgy accents aside, Sea Fever's strength lies in the performances of its committed ensemble and the believability of its central protagonist. There's just about enough here to engage b-movie fans, and it's certainly a level above its recent big budget Hollywood rival, the Kristen Stewart vehicle Underwater, but there's just not enough monster in its mash.

Sea Fever is on Shudder UK now.