Sea fever is the boat equivalent of cabin fever: the psychosis that ensues once one or more people are stranded somewhere. Irritation, aggressivity, hallucinations, an appetizing cocktail of symptoms for horror fans.
However in Sea Fever, written & directed by Neasa Hardiman (mostly known for her directing work on TV shows like “Jessica Jones” and “Happy Valley”), the titular fever that takes a hold of the crew of the Niaṁ Cinn Óir, an Irish fishing boat, is not in anybody’s head. But no matter how real the fever is for the characters, it never quite reaches the audience.
It all starts out with Siobhán, Hermione Corfield (“Rust Creek”, “xXx: Return of Xander Cage”), a doctorate student as clever as she is solitary: social gatherings just aren’t as interesting to her as marine biology, her field of study.
By boarding the Niaṁ Cinn Óir, she hopes to find and study abnormalities among the boat’s catch. Her sole companions for the next days are the four other crew members led by Freya, Connie Nielsen (“Gladiator”, “Wonder Woman”), & her husband Gerard, Dougray Scott (“EverAfter”, “Hitman”). It is when the latter decides to illegally enter an “exclusion zone” in the hope of a good catch that hunters becomes prey to an unknown species.
Nothing in Sea Fever ever gets as exciting as that point. The teasing of the creature is thrilling, the beast itself the right amount of imposing, beautiful and disgusting. It looks fantastic both in design and special effects, and the film is more generous with it than we could have expected from its small budget.
This isn’t really a monster flick, though, nor is it the gorefest it could have become once a gruesome symptom of the fever is revealed (after two scenes introducing it, the symptom is then never seen again). Instead, Neasa Hardiman seems to opt for the character-driven drama but without the engaging characters that should go with it.
Despite a small cast, no characters are developed enough for us to care once their life gets in danger. There are a few hints at backstories, but the film just cruises by them. Even Siobhán gets little more than what I previously mentioned: her personality and behavior suggest that she is on the autism spectrum but it is never actually explored, and her growth throughout the film doesn’t feel either natural or meaningful.
Despite this, the story isn’t entirely too predictable nor is it downright bad: it is just more conventional than what was probably intended. More your average boat ride – with a few bumps along the way and a fantastic creature to behold – than a thrilling adventure at sea.
Signature Entertainment presents Sea Fever in Cinemas and on DVD & Digital HD from April 24th