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RATED Not Rated
STUDIO Shout! Factory
RUNNING TIME 112 Minutes
• “Making Of” Featurettes
• Theatrical Trailer —
It’s Leviathan meets Deep Blue Sea, but everybody’s speaking some crazy moon man language.–
Ji-Hoon Kim (Director), Ji-won Ha, Sung-Kee Ahn, Ji-Ho Oh—
Hae-jun works at an offshore rig in Sector 7, a real-life joint-development zone that harbors Korea’s hopes of one day becoming energy-independent. Her greatest dream is to find oil, an obsessive quest that has yielded no results. Along with a crew that includes Dong-soo and ship captain Jeong-man, Hae-jun decides to conduct one last drilling expedition before withdrawing as instructed by headquarters. But when things start to go dreadfully wrong on the rig, the crew is overwhelmed by the disconcerting feeling that something is out there…—
In the last ten years the Korean film market has really risen up and made a name for itself as the most prolific of foreign exports into American film culture. It’s filled the void once populated by Japan (which has become a little too esoteric for its own good) and Italy (which only theoretically still exists.) Helping fill the metaphorical bellies of foreign movie fans tired of living off of Spain and Australia’s, admittedly delicious and wonderful, table scraps.
I think one of the things that makes Korean movies (or at least the ones that slip through the cracks and end up on this side of the world) is that they do really interesting and innovative things but filter them through a sense of nostalgia. From 70s revenge films, 50s creature features, and 80s rubber-suit monster movies. South Korea is basically the Quentin Tarantino of foreign film markets.
Such is the case with today’s example: Sector 7. While the easiest comparison to make to this movie is fellow South-Korean-Aquatic-Eco-Horror-Monster-Movie (SKAEHMM for short!) The Host, this movie really has its roots in 1989 (the year of The Abyss, Deepstar Six, and Leviathan) and the 1998-1999 resurgence of the theme with Deep Blue Sea and Sphere.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A group of workers on an off-shore drilling rig come upon some strange creatures whilst drilling, crew members start turning up dead one-by-one as some super fast unseen thing stalks about the rig, then the crew members band together to escape it but then are forced to fight it when the escape option goes horribly wrong. The plot is basically a mash-up of all six of those sea-base movies I mentioned above, though Leviathan and Deep Blue Sea are easily the most prevalent.
Our protagonist is Hae-Jun, a spunky tough Ellen Ripley type that is far too cute and clean-looking to be an oil rig worker, fortunately she’s played by a more than capable actress who managed to step clean across the language barrier and impress me with the depth she brought to a performance that could (and has on many occasions, I’m looking at you Cynthia Rothrock) be bland and uninteresting in the hands of a lesser performer.
An older mentor figure (who is maybe Hae-Jun’s uncle?) shows up, I think his name is Dong-Soo but for the sake of accuracy I’ll just refer to him as Korean Lance Henriksen, just as the oil rig workers are about to be sent home because they haven’t found any oil. Fortunately K-Lance finds oil almost instantly and all is well. Except for the glowing goldfish things they found and the mysterious monster slinking about the ship killing people.
Things unfold in much the way these do and I may have given this movie a bit too much credit by making that blanket statement about Korean movies breaking new ground using nostalgia. This movie is all nostalgia. We have the Ripley character, the sudden storm that knocks out the power, the basic plot of Alien, the jerkass boss guy abandoning everyone on the only means of transportation available only to get his comeuppance, there’s even a complete rip-off of that shot from Alien 3 where the xenomorph impales the guy’s head with its tongue causing the glass portal his head was leaning against to shatter.
The thing that sets Sector 7 apart from just about every other movie that tries to pull this shit is that despite the fact that it’s just a highlight reel of your favorite deep sea monster movies, it does its job well. The characters each get fleshed out fairly well as individuals with back stories, they feel like people instead of fodder and you start doing the math and realizing that you kind of like all these people and none of them are expendable.
The visuals also help set the movie apart. Though the monster is fairly original but it’s nothing special and the CG can at times be a bit dodgy; what’s amazing is the work-around the visual effects department found to help alleviate this problem. The entire rig is ridiculously vivid and colorful while still managing to look like an oil rig. Colors are bright and stick out, which lends a bit of comic book quality to the sets and wardrobe. Everything looks a bit surreal. So when an effect is maybe not as strong as it could be, it still doesn’t look terribly out of place because everything’s semi-cartoonish.
Of course the comic book feel doesn’t stop at the sets. The whole movie is a bit out-there and unselfconscious about it. While I guess I could buy an entire oil rig operated by less than ten people I have a slightly harder time believing that the crew are allowed to race motorcycles around the rig, jumping staircases and zooming through pipe-rigging. And of course these motorcycles figure heavily into the finale of the movie before the explosion (not a spoiler, you knew there would be an explosion) happens.
For those looking for another instant classic from Korea along the lines of Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, Thirst, or The Host: this movie may fall a bit short of your expectations. But if you want a fun, enjoyable, and just a tad bit silly monster movie then you can do a lot worse than Sector 7. And if you liked Leviathan you pretty much have to see it.—
This is a Shout! Factory disc so the picture and sound quality are great. I didn’t check out the English dub but chances are if you buy this you’re not going to either. Just know that the subtitles seem to be kosher for the most part though there seems to be a bit of a language barrier in one scene: I’m guessing the Korean words for “clap” and “clutter” sound a great deal more alike than their English counterparts.
Special features are kind of sparse: we get featurettes on the making of the movie, the female lead, the team, and the director. There’s also a trailer for people who are into that kind of thing.—
Out of a Possible 5 Stars