Friday, April 10, 2020

Sea Fever: Enjoy a Contagious Monster Movie

You would think superstitious sailors would never name their vessel after the legendary nymph Niamh Cinn Oir, given how tragically her romance with a mortal ended, but apparently this salty sea-faring couple did just that. However, everyone on-board seems to believe redheads are unlucky. That will make things even more awkward for their new passenger, a ginger-haired grad student. However, they will need her marine biology expertise when they encounter a strange mollusk creature in Neasa Hardiman’s Sea Fever, which releases today on VOD.

She prefers the lab, but Siobhan must conduct some field observation to complete her advanced degree. The Niamh Cinn Oir is not exactly a research vessel, but its owners, married couple Gerard and Freya need the money. The spectrum-ish Siobhan does not exactly endear herself to the crew, but her scientific knowledge and scuba diving talent will come in handy when the ship is thrown off course by a large mysterious object, damaging their radio and navigation.

It turns out the trawler is tied up by the tentacles of a large squid-like monster. Rather ominously, its secretions have a corroding effect on the hull. Even worse, it holds weird parasitic organisms that causes blindness, projectile-hemorrhaging, and madness. As a scientist, Siobhan understands the need to quarantine everyone on-board before they return home—if that will even be possible—but the rest of the crew doesn’t want to listen.

Sea Fever is an unusually moody monster movie that builds as much tension out of character-based conflicts as it does from the thing in the ocean. Most of the crew have very distinct personalities, including Freya & Gerard, as well as Omid, the Serbian engineer (who is nearly as standoffish as Siobhan) and gray-haired Ciara (who is not as kindly as she looks).

Although this is clearly a scrappy production (the polite way of saying “low budget”), the creature effects look decent. Admittedly, Hardiman tries to imply more than she actually shows, but that is usually a wise strategy, even when budget constraints are not an issue. Her screenplay also makes the underlying science sound credible and realistic. In some respects, the film evokes the vibe of vintage Doctor Who (in the best, nostalgic way), as well as the isolated alienation of John Carpenter’s The Thing remake.

As Siobhan and Omid, Hermoine Corfield and Ardalan Esmaili develop some intriguing, not-exactly-romantic chemistry together. Yet, it is Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen who really lower the emotional boom whilst leading the crew in the sailor’s prayer, after the enormity of their situation starts to become clear. Plus, Olwen Fouere makes Ciara quite an unpredictable wildcard.

It will be rather ironic for some viewers to hear the crew freak-out over the prospects off a 36-hour quarantine period during the brave new era of 15-day self-isolation for those potentially exposed to CCP-virus, but we can certainly identify with their potential stir-craziness. Regardless, this is a thoughtful, quality genre film. Highly recommended for fans of monster films, Sea Fever is now available on VOD platforms.