Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 11, 2020

Sea Fever

Filed under: Film — louisproyect @ 6:16 pm

Recently, I’ve begun to be invited to cover films originally destined for NYC theaters that are now shut down because of COVID-19. Instead, they will be available as VOD, including “Sea Fever” that can be rented on Amazon Prime for $6.99.

Written and directed by Neasa Hardiman, a young Irishwoman who earned a Ph.D. in film theory from Trinity College, “Sea Fever” appears to be a horror film cut from the same cloth as “The Thing” or “Alien”. It stars Hermione Corfield as Siobhán, a Ph.D. student specializing in marine biology. The film begins with Siobhán boarding a fishing trawler set to depart from an Irish port with her tagging along to conduct a field study of how sea creatures are adapting to changing conditions.

There’s a culture clash at the outset when crew members are put off by her red hair, supposedly bad luck. To accommodate them, she keeps her hair under wraps but is not shy about offering her views on how to deal with an unforeseen crisis. Hundreds of miles from shore, the ship has been disabled by a huge, jellyfish-like creature that has wrapped its tentacles around the hull as if the ship was its prey.

In addition to stopping the ship dead in its tracks and short-circuiting its communications systems, it begins to discharge a luminous venom through cracks in the vessel that has a deadly effect. Crew members begin dying off as a result of horrifying reactions to the venom, including exploding eyeballs. Those who dread undergoing such a fate commit suicide.

After the creature is dislodged from the ship through an electrical charge generated by a powerful on-board battery, it regains mobility and begins heading back to shore. Worried that the infected remaining members, including herself, might spread the disease once back on land, Siobhán sabotages the ship to force it to remain quarantined on the open sea.

Her logic is impeccable. Why would they risk killing millions for their own survival? Additionally, she has the temerity to describe the creature as simply following its own survival instincts by attacking the vessel, which it mistook for a whale—its customary prey. Indeed, the captain had steered the ship into restricted waters in the hope of reaping a bountiful and profitable catch.

Unlike “The Thing” or “Alien”, the film is not about fending off a murderous intruder. Instead, it is about coping with a set of circumstances provoked by ignoring the laws of nature. As a Ph.D. student, Siobhán’s main interest is obviously in trying to see how homo sapiens and nature can co-exist.

“Sea Fever” was obviously not made in order to exploit the coronavirus pandemic but if you watch it, you’ll see the connection. Neasa Hardiman is not your typical filmmaker. She read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” when she was nine years old! In an interview with SciFi Pulse, she described the monster in “Sea Fever”. I am sure that if she was interviewed now for her views on the pandemic, she’d describe Donald Trump and Boris Johnson as the real monsters.

Yanes: The creature in Sea Fever felt like an amazing combination of the aliens from John Carpenter’s The Thing and James Cameron’s The Abyss.  How did you go about shaping this creature?

Hardiman: All the animal’s qualities are based on real marine phenomena. The animal in the story is an amalgam of many different animals’ attributes. I wanted our animal to be beautiful, mesmerizing, but at a scale that made it scary. It’s based on the morphology of cnidaria, or jellyfish. It’s bioluminescent, like a lot of deep-sea life. I wanted it to feel unknowable, with a black hole at the centre, so there was nothing we could recognize as a ‘face’. I wanted its tendrils to be like a jellyfish: not muscular and prehensile like a squid, but thin, elegant, like neural fibres reaching out to explore the world. And when you see it from the top, I wanted it to look a little bit like the pupil and iris of a human eye.

Astonishingly, only two days ago an article in Global News referred to a creature similar to the one Hardiman scripted:

Scientists call it a siphonophore Apolemia, but you can call it the world’s longest “long stringy stingy thingy,” the giant alien tentacle or just “the entity.”

An international team of ocean researchers says it may have discovered the longest living … thing … in the world, although the thing’s alien nature makes it hard to call it a single animal. It’s actually a giant colony of tiny, genetically identical clones that work together to create a larger, jellyfish-like predator in the deep sea.

The creature was spotted about 630 metres below the surface, in the darkness of the ocean’s depths.

Researchers at the Schmidt Ocean Institute shared footage of the largest siphonophore Apolemia specimen they’ve ever seen earlier this week, after recording it in a “UFO-like” feeding coil deep beneath the Indian Ocean west of Australia, in a region known as the Ningaloo Canyons.

“It seems likely that this specimen is the largest ever recorded,” the Schmidt Ocean Institute researchers wrote on Twitter.

A huge siphonophore Apolemia sea creature is shown in this close-up view. Schmidt Ocean Institute/Instagram




1 Comment »

  1. Fascinating. This sort of thing goes along way back in pirate lore, like the Kraken, which seems similar to the one here.

    Comment by Richard Estes — April 16, 2020 @ 5:21 am

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