M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on April 14, 2020. Available on digital download and On Demand from Dust!!
SEA FEVER (2019)
Directed by Neasa Hardiman
Written by Neasa Hardiman
Starring Hermione Corfield, Connie Nielsen, Dougray Scott, Olwen Fouéré, Jack Hickey, Ardalan Esmaili, Elie Bouakaze
Find out more about this film here!
While a film about a sea monster that attacks its victims by virally infecting them might be a little too close to reality for people’s comfort in this time of crisis, SEA FEVER eeks by at being a “too soon” film to watch by being well acted, subtly horrifying, and soulfully filmed.
RUST CREEK’s Hermione Corfield stars as Siobhán, a stand-offish marine biologist who prefers to keep her nose in books rather than socialize with her teammates at the lab. When she has a chance for some real world experience, she jumps to it and leaves on an Irish fishing trawler to study in the field. Siobhán feels alienated from the crew, led by husband and wife captains Freya and Gerard (Connie Nielsen and Dougray Scott). But soon her expertise is needed when the captain decides to go off course and they find themselves attacked by what looks to be some kind of iridescent giant squid from the depths below. With the tentacles eating into the hull of the boat, they attempt to detach themselves from the monster’s grip, but even after they get free, the sea beast seems to have laid some kind of eggs in the ship’s water system. This causes the crew to become infected with a parasite one by one as the ship drifts aimlessly in the middle of the ocean.
I love the little details SEA FEVER decides to focus on. Other than the giant squid monster and the infection, the smaller details make this film work so well. The fact that Siobhán is immediately made an outcast once she reveals she is a redhead just makes the whole thing feel like filmmaker Neasa Hardiman has done her homework (redheads are considered unlucky aboard a ship, you know). There are also a lot of clever little nuances that are added to the characters of Siobhán, Freya, Gerard, and others in the crew that make this film feel more whole and well thought out from a character perspective. Even minor characters feel well-worn here. It makes for a much richer experience to get to know this crew, much like the way Cameron does with the Marines in ALIENS and the crew in THE ABYSS or Carpenter did with the guys in THE THING.
Speaking of those two movies, SEA FEVER definitely feels derivative of both Carpenter’s THE THING with the virus angle and the sea monster trend in the nineties which included DEEP STAR SIX, THE ABYSS, SPHERE, LEVIATHAN, and scores of others. SEA FEVER feels right at home with those films which highlight that you don’t have to go into deep space to find alien life. There is even a scene where Siobhán must test all of the crew to see if they are infected that feels a little bit too on the nose with THE THING for me. While Carpenter’s film cranked the dial on paranoia to the MAX, this one feels tossed in for some intrigue and is one of the few scenes that didn’t work for me in SEA FEVER.
Still, I feel Neasa Hardiman excels in creating a soulful mood. Both Hardiman and actress Corfield make Siobhán utterly likable and you can’t help but root for her to succeed in isolating this threat and getting out alive. This makes for a firm that is easy to get comfortable with–less in your face than the films it is derived from like THE THING and THE ABYSS, but none the less effective in the message it is trying to communicate. It takes its time to observe the wonders of the ocean as well as the threats and even during the times of crisis, there is something beautiful to this monster from below.
Part deft character study, part meditative sea trip, and part maritime monster flick, SEA FEVER is a unique film that makes up for its lack of bombast by delivering solid, gorgeous cinema. The special effects are strong and used sparingly–not over the top. SEA FEVER is a film made with a measured hand, and while that might have held back in giving it the urgency it needs in the climax, it still delivers a powerful story and some very thrilling scenes. I really look forward to seeing what filmmaker Neasa Hardiman has to offer in future endeavors as she has an eye that seems to pick out the horror in little details and deceptively beautiful things.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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