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When graduate student Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) takes off her wool cap and shows off her striking red hair in the director Neasa Hardiman’s Sea fever, the crew of the fishing boat on which she has a lift has been scandalized. Red hair is considered bad luck among fishermen, but Siobhan, a scientist who studies aquatic behavior, doesn’t believe those myths.

“I can’t change what I am,” she says, and there are other more practical concerns for the crew. “We’ve already spent her fee,” said co-captain Freya (Connie Nielsen), and that’s the end of the discussion.

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Siobhan is on the boat to collect data for her graduate thesis, although she is much more comfortable in a controlled lab environment. These rough, boisterous sailors make her uncomfortable, seeing her as an intruder, a necessary compromise to support a fishing operation that barely floats financially. She is their curse and ultimately their savior in Hardiman’s relentlessly disturbing sci-fi horror film.

Derived in the best of ways. Sea fever takes from sci-fi horror classics like Alien and The thingBut it’s not just Ridley Scott and John Carpenter ripping off. Hardiman creates a unique atmosphere and tone for the story, while recalling familiar genre touchstones.

On the way to a planned fishing spot, the boat is caught by an unknown force, which holds it in place and leaks some kind of substance into the hull. “ Something changes in the texture of the wood, ” crew engineer Omid (Ardalan Esmaili) tells Siobhan as she pokes the substance with a pencil (like Tom Skerritt’s Dallas with a pen to Alien

Siobhan immediately switches to scientific analysis mode, first speculating that the boat could be covered in a new breed of barnacles before diving underwater and witnessing a spectacular, huge creature with dozens of tentacles that have gripped the ship.

“Something changes the texture of the wood.”Frakas Productions

Sea fever is a relatively small-scale production, but Hardiman makes excellent use of the available resources, and every glimpse of the creature reflects its awe-inspiring scale and otherworldly. The film balances that sense of overwhelming danger with a more insidious threat in the boat, as soon as the creature suddenly and inexplicably releases them.

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“Animals don’t catch something and then just let it go,” Siobhan warns the crew, but they prefer to remain in blissful ignorance and even stop to bring in a catch rather than run back to shore as quickly as possible.

However, the creature has not only freely given them up. Hardiman repeats again Alien in a cheery dinner scene after the crew’s apparent escape. Everyone laughs and jokes until a crew member suddenly starts acting strangely and soon meets a gruesome fate. The creature has left behind small larvae, and they reproduce in the water system and in the crew members themselves, spinning Sea Fevend up in a kind of closed door mystery in which everyone is a possible carrier of diseases.

Later, in one of the film’s most thrilling scenes, Siobhan tests every remaining crew member for hidden signs of infection, a clear nod to The thing‘s unforgettable test scene.

There is an uncomfortable resonance in the discussion between Siobhan and the rest of the crew, as she insists quarantine themselves before returning to shore to make sure they don’t spread this deadly infection to the general population. Siobhan begins Sea fever as a neutral, calculating scientist who insists, “I’m not in,” but her deep understanding of animal behavioral patterns also makes her the most intuitive person on the boat, with a willingness to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Ultimately, Siobhan finds reserves of inner strength and acts as a leader, but her character is not heavy-handed or triumphant. It’s the silent evolution of a capable, compassionate person, and it’s easy to see echoes of Alienis Ellen Ripley or The thingis RJ MacReady in Siobhan, and in Corfield’s effortlessly powerful performance. The menacing monster and its microscopic invading spawn are terrifying, but what’s just as terrifying is the human factor, the way nerves can fray in a confined space with no way to escape, and people who once trusted each other can so quickly. become hostile.

Amidst that chaos, Siobhan remains both rational and understanding, even expressing her sympathy for the creature itself, which only follows its nature. Like Siobhan, it cannot change what it is.

Sea Fever is now streaming for free Hoopla and Kanopy, and is also available at Hulu in the U.S.

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