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A Flammable Multi-Toothed Slug-Monster that Eats People Aboard a Deep-Sea Oil Rig: 'Sector 7'

Viewers of Joo-ho Bong's The Host (2006) will have some idea of what to expect here, although there's much more of it in Sector 7, and it's even more out of place.


Sector 7

Director: Kim Ji-hoon
Cast: Ji-won Ha, Sung-khee An, Ji-ho Oh
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Studio: KJ Film
Release date: 2012-06-26

Sector 7 starts promisingly, with a creepy underwater scene at the bottom of the ocean floor that makes good use of the deep sea's natural murkiness and ambience. Unsurprisingly, the character we first encounter is destined for a short screen life, and also unsurprisingly, the creature that offs him remains unseen. This is followed by a quick cut to the setting for the rest of the movie: a deep-sea oil drilling platform, miles away from anywhere.

So far, so good: we've got an isolated environment, a small number of human beings left to their own resources (the balance of the oil platform's personnel soon abandon the rig as unprofitable), and an as-yet-faceless threat whose one known characteristic is its lethality. Echoes of earlier horror movies are too numerous to count -- Alien and The Thing are obvious ancestors, but you could throw in any number of antecedents, from golden oldies like Fiend Without a Face and Night of the Blood Beast to newer offerings such as Evil Dead and Cabin Fever. In any case, all the elements are in place along with the added bonus, if that first scene is anything to go by, of reasonably good cinematography and special effects.

Alas, instead of quickly moving to take advantage of his setup and ramp up the tension, director Ji-Hun Kim (May 18, Mokpo the Harbor) opts instead for several scenes of tone-deaf slapstick and romantic comedy. Viewers of Joo-ho Bong's The Host (2006) will have some idea of what to expect here, although there's much more of it in Sector 7 and it's even more out of place. First, we have the will-they-or-won't-they romance between tough girl Hae-jun and pretty boy Dong-soo; then there's the comic relief's pathetic groveling toward his scientist lady-love; then there's the clumsy bromance-bonding of the two grease monkeys. None of this serves much purpose, and none of it is the least bit interesting, unless you're ten, in which case you can giggle over the guy who makes funny faces. It's a shame, because the promise of that first scene gets entirely lost within the next 20 minutes.

When the monster does show up, the plot goes through a series of entirely expected, generic motions: one character dies under hazardous circumstances, another is soon found murdered, while yet another is accused of the murder and apparent sexual assault—bizarrely, this is played for laughs, too—even though the audience knows perfectly well who really did the deed. The power goes out. The survivors are scattered. Someone acts dishonorably and pays the price, someone else acts honorably and pays the price.

With surprising dispatch, the survivors are whittled down to a bare minimum, while the soundtrack roars with a bombastic score and multiple explosions: the monster turns out to be highly flammable, which must have been a boon for the director--think how many opportunities there are to set things afire on an oil rig. And if you didn't think that daredevil motorcycle race early in the movie was going to have a payoff later on, well, you just haven't watched enough of these films.

The ending must be singled out as especially egregious. Without giving too much away, it's fair to say that in their quest for a "twist", the filmmakers crossed far beyond the line of believability. Considering this movie concerns a flammable multi-toothed slug-monster that eats people aboard a deep-sea oil rig, that statement is remarkable.

The monster is standard CGI, which these days means it's not bad. It's squishy and toothy and weird and looks less like a cartoon than it might, although less like a real thing than it should. It has a limited range of behaviors, being especially partial to rearing back on its protoplasmic haunches and opening its jaws wide. Okay fine, but in terms of genuine shocks or fright, this is strictly by-the-numbers stuff.

Maybe I'm being too tough on a dumb little monster movie, but I can't shake the feeling that this was a lost opportunity. The setting is clever and the explanation for the monster's origin, when it comes, is original. The color scheme and camera angles work well, and if it echoes Alien a little too much, well, there are worse movies to echo. But the plot points race by as if being ticked off on a list, and the characters are utterly forgettable: for all the character-establishing comedy-romance that the movie tries to foist upon the viewer, these people all look like sleek 20something mannequins, not a hard-bitten crew of oil pros who live their days on the high seas.

Extras on the DVD include a making-of featurette and a trailer. It's a lightweight set of extras that fits this lightweight movie that could have been so much darker and more effective.

5

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