Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sea Fever (2020)

Director: Neasa Hardiman
Notable Cast: Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen, Jack Hickey, Dag Malmberg, Ardalan Esmaili, Olwen Fourere, Elie Bouakaze

In a time where most of the world is quarantined due to a massive pandemic, releasing a film about infections, quarantines, death, and the mental anguish of all the above is one hell of a flex. Watching Sea Fever is a harrowing experience that hits very close to home and certainly plays on the anxieties of the current state of affairs. Isn’t that the appeal of horror cinema though? Working through social and personal fears in a “safe” medium from the comfort of your home or communal theater in a slightly heightened narrative format? It’s definitely the main appeal for me. This is why, while Sea Fever seems almost too perfectly timed, it’s release is only fitting.

To maximize its impact, Sea Fever is also incredibly well made. The timing of its release would be in less than good taste had the film been exploitative of its contents, for example just trying to comprehend Corona Zombies feels like rubbing sand in your eyes, but this flick truly attempts to digest and discuss its content. As our ragtag crew gathers, helping a young woman played by Hermione Corfield with her scientific field testing, it’s not immediately clear how this film will play out. Yet, the sense of comradery between the crew, focusing on their relationships and dynamics of character choice, sets the stage up for when the tensions start to mount nicely. An incredibly stacked cast, including some impeccable work for both Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott, fleshes out the basics to allow director/writer Neasa Hardiman the freedom to play with the timing and atmosphere of the film.

It’s this atmosphere, which slowly expands further and further into a more fantastic territory, that truly acts as the MVP for the film. Sea Fever uses the confined quarters of the ship along with a sense of isolation of being out at sea to really hammer home this feeling of dread as the ‘sickness’ starts to spread amongst the crew. On the surface, the film happens to work on a level similar to another aquatic horror film, Leviathan, but it’s made in the age of more subtle and artsy horror. The translation works well. Enough so that at times the film works much better as a tense dramatic thriller than the more traditional ideas of a horror film, but – as mentioned, in the day and age of COVID-19 the horror is all too real.

To say too much more would betray the experience of the film. Sea Fever doesn’t necessarily play upon its horror elements in the most obvious ways, but the impending sense of doom and the low-key panic of a possibility of spreading infection certainly unnerves. The cast is incredible and director Hardiman keeps the tone and narrative at a steady pace to deliver on its atmosphere. For those looking for their horror a bit more dramatic and realistic, Sea Fever is the way to go. With those expectations in tow, it will be hard to be lost at sea with one. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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