Courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky
There’s a strange mystery force that’s lurking beneath an Irish fishing trawler in “Sea Fever” which is trying to be “The Thing” on a boat. The underwhelming thriller has some effective, if mild, scares, but it never embraces its B-movie inspirations and fails to dive deep below the surface of all great creature features. In fact, it draws parallels to another aquatic monster flick that opened earlier this year, “Underwater” which puts “Sea Fever” at a vast disadvantage.
Unfortunately, “Sea Fever” doesn’t build any suspense, or take any liberties with the narrative. It’s about people stuck on a boat, with an extremely infectious parasite that latches on and never lets go. It likely doesn’t matter (or you just don’t care) the film centers around marine biologist Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) and her assignment on a commercial fishing boat, which is to document and account for any “abnormalities.” How convenient?
Things go well at first, especially as the six-member crew begins to haul in a sizable load of fish and easing the financial burden of the ship's captain. Except, unbeknownst to most of the crew - including the captain (Dougary Scott) and his wife (Connie Nielsen) - they found the catch by steering into an area marked off-limits by local authorities. The reason? We don’t know. But we start to get an idea why when the boat collides with what is presumed to be barnacles who ooze a strange gooey substance through the wood.
Offering her insight on the matter, Siobhan takes a dive and discovers a much bigger picture: a glowing eel-like creature that’s part of a larger organism. Nearby, another boat is found and it’s crew have met their gruesome demise and soon thereafter the spunky biologist makes the connection the entire squad is at great risk of infection by egg-laying creatures that have infiltrated the water supply.
Meant to be taken as an eco-thriller about the confines of nature, “Sea Fever” really doesn’t have a clear or stern message other than, if you’re driven by greed - bad things are going to happen. The film has some respectable performances and the dozen or so VFX shots that do exist certainly give “Sea Fever” an elevated pedigree, but the screenplay - penned by director Neasa Hardiman - isn’t that intriguing, and I like an “Alien” rip-off (see “Life” or the aforementioned “Underwater”) when the characters are likable and the deaths are memorable.
Any horror fans looking for a bloody fix, you won’t find it here. There’s no visceral imagery or anything remotely terrifying about the unseen enemy. Part of that is because we don’t even know what this invader is? The script leaves plenty on the table in terms of its biological roots, but if you’re going to feature lackluster characters, at least give me a monster worth rooting for. Whatever suspenseful edge “Sea Fever” was trying to create, it ends up feeling like a lame retread without any flavor. In other words, a standard aquatic sea-thriller that never finds its legs.
Sea Fever will be available digitally and on-demand starting Friday April 10th.