Sea Fever follows a crew of fishermen and a tagalong scientist that fall upon a massive bioluminescent creature while out at sea. The creature latches onto the hull and members of the crew begin experiencing a debilitating, mind-altering illness. What is this monster and how can they survive the encounter?
On paper, Sea Fever is my horror wet dream. I love scifi horror that spends its time researching and problem solving a mysterious creature or monster, particularly when there is thought and some semblance of realism put into it. Sea Fever does deliver on that front, as well as building powerful characters with engaging dialogue. Some of the motifs of characters feel contrived on the surface, but their depth is expressed through the course of their film by means of the past acting out in moments of desperation.
Despite the commendable pieces of the film's acting and writing, the creature and mayhem fall short of expectations, especially within the hype touted by some calling it The Thing meets The Abyss. This film lacks the grotesque magnitude and visual commitment to its creature like The Thing and the raw, incomparable tension of The Abyss. It falls somewhere in between, but far short of such high standards. It makes Sea Fever an unnecessary disappointment, when one could go into it knowing it is a slow-burning, character-driven, subversive scifi horror flick.
The creature itself, which makes its presence known relatively early, is nothing to write home about, particularly because it remains shrouded in the depths for most of the runtime while the ramifications of its behavior sits at the forefront of the action. Visually, it's a magical beast, but it rarely feels visceral or scary. It is treated like a yet-undiscovered animal, which dilutes the tension with mystery and exposition. It keeps your mind engaged while simultaneously leaving your horror-jaded eyes begging for a bit more.
The preservation themes that make themselves known a handful of times throughout the movie are mostly unpretentious, but they also lead to some awkward scenes in which protagonists unnecessarily expose themselves to the dangers of the creature in order to study or capture it rather than kill it for their own survival. The seemingly instinctive respect for nature feels unbecoming of a human reaching a point of animalistic fight-or-flight, but at the same time it is a refreshing, unique element for a character to have in a film like this. Usually solving the puzzle of the creature is a means to its destruction, but studying it to study it...that's usually left to the evil mad scientist.
The movie was missing just a little bit more gruesome action and a little more of the creature, but that is likely due to the expectations going into the film. The movie wasn't setting out to achieve the "creature of the year" award, it was a character study in the coexistence of humanity and nature. To that end, it is a smashing success. Efrit and I seemed to feel that we were more disappointed about being disappointed than blaming the film. The hype machine gets to us like everyone else, and sometimes it can ruin the perception of a perfectly good film, which is what Sea Fever is at the end of the day.