GORE IN THE STORE
SEA FEVER ***
Directed by Neasea Hardiman.
Starring Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen.
Horror, U.K. and Ireland, 89 minutes, certificate 15.
Reviewed as part of the Arrow Video FrightFest, Glasgow.
With her debut feature, Neasea Hardiman makes a solid impression with this tale of biological terror on the high seas. Taking the leading role is Hermione Corfield as Siobhan, a marine biology student studying the behaviour patterns in sea life on a trawler boat setting out from Ireland. Events soon take an alarmingly swift turn for the worst when they find themselves stranded in the Atlantic at the mercy of a mysterious and vast organism that soon infects the crew. Tensions and paranoia run amok as the small crew try to figure out a way to survive and return to safety.
From THE THING to this year's UNDERWATER this is already well-trodden territory for the horror genre; a small group of people in a remote location at the mercy of mysterious life-threatening forces beyond comprehension. One particular story beat from John Carpenter's all-timer is used again here, but to far lesser effect, and there are more than a few similarities to THE X-FILES season one episode ICE. There are hints of folklore, and the supernatural dropped at the start that hint at something different than what is usually expected but once the threat takes hold of the ship and the crew it settles into a competently executed biological thriller.
Sea Fever ticks along nicely; an exciting story with a talented cast goes a long way. Corfield makes for an interesting heroine; her lack of social skills come in handy when dispassionately tackling an unprecedented situation in the face of rising tension. Despite struggling with their Irish accents Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen as the married couple who captain the trawler offer reliable support as do the rest of the cast with their well-written characters.
Directing from her own script, Hardiman makes a good impression with her first feature-length film. Her background in directing episodes of HAPPY VALLEY and JESSICA JONES shows she already has an affinity for strong female characters. She also manages to avoid a large number of cliches that usually hobble this type of film. The script does not call on characters to make unwise decisions so the story can escalate and move along, refreshingly they act naturally; scared but willing to listen to reason for the greater good.
In a year that sees us blind sided by a virus, there is a small kind of reassurance in seeing such events unfold and dealt with in such a way on screen. That is not to say that the film lacks drama, however. There is also a deep sense of dread that sets in once Siobhan and her shipmates set out to sea. The frequent glimpses of the creature show off an impressive design that highlights the otherworldly nature of marine life, and there are a couple of well-staged instances of ocular gore that lead on to a downbeat conclusion that is well played.
It may not make a huge splash, sorry, as some recent horror debuts may have in recent times. Still, it is a more than a satisfying exercise in remote terror that promises Hardiman may go onto greater results with her work in the future on the big screen.