'Sea Fever': Charting a Course Through the Ocean of Pandemic Movie Possibilities

By Kurt Loder

April 10, 2020 5 min read

In a normal, non-awful year, right now the air would be thick with promotional chatter about a number of big new movies. Chief among these would be the new Bond film, "No Time to Die," which was all set to roll out when the novel coronavirus emergency exploded last month. Understandably, MGM was reluctant to endanger its $250 million investment in this latest installment of the money-minting 007 franchise by rerouting it to a lowly video on demand premiere, so its release has been rescheduled for November — if there is a November.

Also sandbagged by the viral catastrophe, along with virtually everything else in life, was "Wonder Woman 1984" (now pushed back from June to August), Marvel's long-time-coming Avengers spinoff "Black Widow" (rescheduled for November), the whispery horror sequel "A Quiet Place Part II" (September) and the possibly unnecessary "Ghostbusters" reboot (transported way off to March of next year).

These are not happy days for movie companies (whose many films currently in production, such as Universal's "Jurassic World: Dominion," have been expensively halted in place) or exhibitors (who must continue covering fixed costs for empty theaters). On the other hand, homebound Americans may be spending more time parked in front of screens watching movies and movie-adjacent product than ever before. Which means that once they've checked "Tiger King" off their must-see list and sentimentally binged their way through an ocean of old TV series, they can poke around in the shoals of obscure films they might normally have ignored.

I have sampled some of these movies myself, most recently an Irish monster item called "Sea Fever." This is not a great movie, but it's not bad, either. The cast, which includes old pros Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen, is solid, and the lead, 26-year-old Hermione Corfield, does an admirable job of tamping down her natural star sparkle and donning frumpy sweaters and wooly watch caps to play an introverted marine biology student. This character's name is Siobhán, and she's tagging along with the crew of a crusty old fishing trawler owned and piloted by Scott and Nielsen in order to ... well, I'm not sure exactly what she's supposed to be up to (something about "extrapolating patterns" and "predicting ecological outcomes," she says). But it's pretty clear what writer-director Neasa Hardiman has in mind: a bold appropriation of well-known elements from fright classics like "Alien" and John Carpenter's "The Thing" in order to create something stylishly semi-new in the claustrophobic-horror line.

After some light introduction of the small and not especially memorable crew, we follow Siobhán down into the ship's hold, where an icky excrescence has appeared in a plank. Soon this thing begins oozing a luminescent green goo, and soon it morphs into something really distressing, and in no time at all, Siobhán finds herself donning an oxygen tank and dropping over the side of the ship to swim down and see what's up with the hull. There's a monster, if you must know, and it's not a pretty sight.

The creature is impressionistically rendered (there's much tentacle menace), and the ways in which it steadily picks off crew members isn't overly gory (although there's some eyeball action, which, while not entirely new, won't appeal to everyone). The movie is mainly about atmosphere, which may not be enough for really bloodthirsty horror fans. But is it worth a watch for the rest of us? That depends. Is there somewhere else you gotta be?

 Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.
Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.
 Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.
Photo courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.

Kurt Loder is the film critic for Reason Online. To find out more about Kurt Loder and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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