Irish/U.S./U.K./Swedish/Belgian coproduction Sea Fever (2019) is a tense, thrilling creature feature boasting compelling drama and fine performances. From writer/director Neasa Hardiman — who has previously worked on the Marvel Netflix series Inhumans(2017) and Jessica Jones (2015) —  the film focuses on socially awkward loner and marine biology student Siobhán (Hermione Corfield) and her study trip aboard a trawler, which she does not want to take but must, to graduate. Most of the vessel’s crew members don’t want her there once they discover that she is a redhead, about which there is a superstition regarding it being bad luck at sea. Misfortune does indeed begin when the trawler and its crew members find themselves victims of a mysterious giant creature and its lingering effects. With everyone dismissing Siobhán’s hard-science–based approaches to their predicament that don’t always mean putting the safety of the crew members first, the related and family-like members begin succumbing to gory ways of dying, and temperatures flare. This slow-burner focuses more on a cerebral approach to its monster tale than being consistently action heavy, but it still cranks up the suspense. Sea Fever also conveys important environmental messages, including symbolism regarding real-life dangers affecting Earth’s ecosystem and some people’s refusal to take matters regarding protecting it seriously, as well as the crew’s arguing about how to deal with matters at hand, though those elements are nicely woven into the story rather than being hammered home heavy handedly. Hardiman invests a good deal of originality into her film, and she is aided by a top-notch ensemble cast. Corfield, who excelled in the 2018 thriller Rust Creek, is superb here as well, and Dougray Scott (The Vatican Tapes, 2015)  and Connie Nielsen (Wonder Woman, 2017; The Following TV series, 2013) also stand out. Gorgeous cinematography from Ruairí O’Brien (The Canal, 2014) and impressive special effects and visual effects work are other highlights of this highly recommended monster movie.

Director Joe Begos’ latest feature VFW relies heavily on nostalgia, with little regard to originality or depth. Still, this high-energy mash-up of 1980s horror and 1970s grindhouse action has its amusing moments and is well worth a watch. The plot is simple: a young woman named Lizard (Sierra McCormick, who was terrific in The Vast of Night [2019] but doesn’t get much of a chance to stretch here) rips off local drug lord Boz (Travis Hammer) to avenge her sister’s death. She runs with his stash of Hype, an opioid that turns its users into mutants (the reason why is touched on but never truly explained), into the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall across the street from the drug den, and voila, we have an instant siege-horror movie as bar boss Fred (Stephen Lang of Don’t Breathe, 2016) and his fellow vets — a fun ensemble cast that includes Fred Williamson, William Sadler, and Martin Kove, among others, including sitting at the end of the bar in a nod to his Cheers TV character Norm, George Wendt — battle the hordes of mutant addicts and the drug-dealing baddies using whatever real or improvised weapons they can. No character arcs or moments of true drama interfere with the action sequences, so it’s just a matter of seeing who will survive to duel in the final boss battle. Begos, working from a screenplay by Max Brallier and Matthew McArdle, relies on the same nostalgia tropes featured in his previous features, including a John Carpenter-inspired synthesizer score (from composer Steve Moore) and copious amounts of graphic gore and grue that hearken back to the 1980s direct-to-video horror heyday. VFW is absolutely style over substance, and is recommended for an adrenaline rush and/or throwback movie mood, and for seeing its cast of seasoned supporting-actor favorites bringing it to the bad guys in their sixties to eighties.

Sea Fever and VFW screened at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow, which took place from 5th-7th March at Glasgow Film Theatre. 

Signature Entertainment presents Sea Fever in cinemas and on Digital HD from 24th April. VFW will be available on digital download from 9th March.