“I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky / And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.” So wrote John Masefield in his famous Sea-Fever, first published in 1902 in Salt-Water Ballads, a romantic view of the sea which is not the experience of young marine biologist Siobhán aboard the trawler Niamh Cinn Óir.
An aging but reliable fishing vessel operating in the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland under gruff skipper Gerard and his suitably Viking first officer Freya, she is photographing their catch and looking for anomalies as part of her research, but as a redhead her very presence has caused consternation among the crew, especially with traditionalist Ciara.
Diverted from their planned fishing grounds by the coastguard who has declared an exclusion zone for a pod of whales and their calves, the Niamh Cinn Óir instead encounters something which stalls them dead in the water. What they initially take to be a swarm of limpet-like creatures which have attached themselves to the hull, softening and dissolving the wood, Siobhán finds to be the tendrils a single vast organism undescribed in her textbooks.
Written and directed by Neasa Hardiman and screened at FrightFest at the Glasgow Film Festival, Sea Fever is a claustrophobic and paranoid thriller, the six strong crew of the Niamh Cinn Óir and their guest Siobhán stranded at sea as the leech-like parasite tries to enter the ship; does it see them as food, a simple but frustrating mistake, or are they potential hosts for its larvae?
A war of attrition with a bioluminescent Lovecraftian horror permeating the nightmares of William Hope Hodgson, Sea Fever recalls two specific episodes of The X-Files, the body horror of The Host cast adrift in the decaying setting of Død Kalm, and balancing science and sacrifice there is no room for sentiment as the implications become apparent should they reach shore carrying the infection which adapts alarmingly well to fresh water.
Hermione Corfield’s Siobhán the voice of reason only able to bring bad news, alongside Jack Hickey, Elie Bouakaze and Ardalan Esmaili she plays against The Rezort‘s Dougray Scott, Wonder Woman‘s Connie Nielsen and Mandy‘s Olwen Fouéré, the cast balanced between youth and experience, and other than the poorly conveyed passage of time, the dialogue indication the events takes place over longer days than the action would indicate, Sea Fever is a well-constructed, performed and intelligently written science fiction horror.