FantasticFest 2019 Movies: Sea Fever

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Writer/Director: Neasa Hardiman

Sea Fever, Neasa Hardiman’s first feature film, works well as both a horror story and a science adventure, an even more remarkable feat considering the constraints of an independent film budget and the realities of shooting on the water. Siobhán, a local university grad student (Hermione Corfield) boards a fishing vessel during a school break, so that she can study the behaviors of some deep sea life. She immediately runs afoul of old sailing superstitions – she’s a redhead, and considered bad luck.

This begins Sea Fever’s theme of the value and harm of superstition, and the patient reality of science. While Siobhán’s annoyance at being called a bad omen is noted and real, the film doesn’t simply allow for “faith bad / science good” simplicity. The superstitions and shared beliefs of the crew are the bonds that form their family. When Siobhán challenges their traditions, the resistance makes sense. The monster itself is a part of the twist of the film, and I don’t want to give much away about it. There’s both body horror and beautiful character moments, however, and you’ll find yourself trying not to touch your eyes before it’s all done.

The crew of actors all feel believable in their roles, with Connie Nielson and Dougray Scott as the core ‘parents’ to their crew. In all, Hardiman has crafted a smart, fun, and well executed horror film that gives a satisfying twist to the standard genre tropes. She makes great use of the tight quarters and fragile safety of a ship at sea, and the performances from the crew are funny and affecting. You feel the danger when it comes for these people, and my bond to them felt similar to the Nostromo’s crew.

Sea Fever is a well-made film with an interesting monster, and a story at its core about
family, tradition, and trust. I found myself thinking about it days later, appreciating the subtle moves it makes to expand the language of science-horror.