Sea Fever secretes a parasitically contagious premise but anchored by mismatched luminescence. “Sea fever”, or rather cabin fever, indicates an increase in distress after expending prolonged amounts of time in one claustrophobic or isolated location. A restless irritability that alters the mentality, producing lethargic and/or aggressive behaviour. For fishermen, whom of which typically travel in the confinements of a fishing trawler, conforming to a routinely shift of minimal required sleep during elongated journeys across ocean waters, they often exhibit uncharacteristic behaviours that progress into a level of madness. The skipper and his wife of the Niamh Cinn-Oir, a strict Irish Catholic couple shrouded by the superstitions of the seas, know of this “fever” all too well. So when the vessel traverses an exclusion zone, unbeknownst to the other crew members, and are latched on by an enormous bioluminescent organism that discharges microscopic larvae into the hull of the boat, the definitions between infection and hysteria become murkier than the depths of the Irish Sea.
Hardiman’s sci-fi thriller, with hints of creature feature horror, finds itself acquiring an apt comparison to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Siobhan, the central scientist protagonist studying faunal behavioural correlations, consistently offering sound advice regarding quarantining the entire vessel in case the parasitical infection spreads onto mainland Ireland when and if they arrive back. Theorising the extent of the contamination and the devastation it could cause. These intense conversations, eventually leading to decisive ultimatums, inject a valuable amount of characterised development across all six crew members as well as a layer of morality (that certain real governments should’ve taken note of *hint* *hint*).
Spiralling from a mysterious first-half that Hardiman assuredly crafts by focusing on the hadopelagic entity of which its tendril-like tentacles offer an effective inevitability that the crew are plagued with sea sickness. Protruding viscous aquamarine slime, aiding the eventual gruesome nestling of the organism’s larvae, exhibiting splendid underwater photography from O’Brien’s saline cinematography. With hints of Scott’s ‘Alien’, Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and Cameron’s ‘The Abyss’, Hardiman cherry picks the most stimulating aspects of each feature and moulds them into a well-acted, particularly Nielsen, Scott and Corfield, well-constructed and well-executed thriller.
However, therein lies the oscillating narrative issue. Hardiman’s screenplay indecisively transitions between the aforementioned inspirations frequently, creating an apprehensive voyage in the process. Siobhan occasionally spouts monologues regarding environmentalism, teetering on metaphorical insights into climate change as they heat up the hadopelagic creature in an attempt to stun it, before advancing into the rules and regulations of epidemics. The strong preliminary creature feature aesthetic soon dissipates into a dithering scientific wave of scepticism, marred with convenient character actions such as Johnny nonchalantly placing his hand on moving rope to issue an open wound, essentially relinquishing the built-up tension by conforming to genre clichés.
Still, Sea Fever remains an ambitious voyage into the unknown, confidently inspired by genre pillars that preceded this trawler. While the engine propels the multi-layered narrative in cruise control, its infectious execution will force you to dive right in.