The premise of Sea Fever, arguably, is as simple as the prose and plot line of Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea: a fishing trawler sets sails off of the west coast of Ireland, the ship and its trapped crew encounter an unimaginably huge, jellyfish-like parasite that lurks in the depths of a fishing exclusion zone in the North Atlantic.

From Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick to Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, there is something timelessly appealing and terrifying about humankind encountering a titanic natural force beyond its control and comprehension, however Sea Fever delivers something remarkably rare within the cinematic ‘creature feature’ genre: an immutable message that is both perpetual and pertinent. But it would be unfair to define Sea Fever as an archetypal creature feature, which is a genre entirely reliant on the mechanism of a mega monster to drive its storyline, like Anaconda, Lake Placid, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus or Stephen King’s short story, “The Raft”, in Skeleton Crew. It’s so much more.

Director Neasa Hardiman builds claustrophobic suspense and isolation with vast, open horizons with the same aptitude Ridley Scott uses deep space in Alien, or how Stanley Kubrick accentuates the seemingly infinite mazes, rooms and hallways of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. The crew are trapped, but maddeningly free to float in the horror of unlimited latitudes. Hardiman also employs splendidly gory body horror elements to escalate tension. This serves as an unsettling juxtaposition to the terrifyingly colossal yet unnervingly placid creature, which excretes lethal parasites that contaminate the crew with a disturbing unobtrusiveness.

Perhaps the most surprising element of Sea Fever is its unexpected parallels with the global COVID-19 pandemic. When the crew realise that they all might be infected by the deadly parasite, Siobhán (brilliantly portrayed by Hermione Corfield) says: “I want us to stay on the boat until we’re sure that none of us is infected… It’s your families, it’s your husbands, it’s your babies. We have to take action. We have to take responsibility.” This message possesses an inadvertent power that allows the audience to connect with the characters and their dire circumstances, instead of giving room for the audience to escape or detach itself from the horror of the events.

In short, Sea Fever is a terse, tight-fisted thriller that sometimes stalls and stagnates but never lets the audience breathe or recover from its inevitable conclusion. It’s gory, bleak and melancholy, but somehow still forces us to believe in hope and self-sacrifice over survival and self-preservation.

Hermione Corfield
Connie Nielsen
Dougray Scott

Neasa Hardiman

Neasa Hardiman

24 Apr 2020

Posted by Jim Reader

Jim is a London-based journalist who has worked for a number of titles, including Bizarre, Vogue, Boxing News and the Daily Sport. He graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2009 and became a Master of Research in American Literature in 2010.