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“Sector 7” is a big budget Korean monster film, charting the struggle between the crew of an offshore oilrig and a man eating horror from the deep. Shot in 3D, the film was directed by Kim Ji Hoon, whose last outing was the considerably more sombre Gwangju massacre picture “May 18”, and was produced by “Haeundae” helmer Yoon Je Kyun. Unusually for a genre outing, the film has a particularly strong cast, headed up by Ha Ji Won (“Secret Garden”) as the roughneck heroine, with support from award winning veteran Ahn Sung Ki, popular TV star Oh Ji Ho (“Chuno”), Cha Ye Ryun (“Little Black Dress”), Song Sae Byuk (“The Servant”), Park Cheol Min (“Cyrano Agency”), Lee Han Wi (“Officer of the Year”), and Park Jung Hak (“Bedevilled”).
The film is set in the titular offshore development zone sector 7, on a rig whose team, led by the headstrong Hae Joon (Ha Ji Won) have as yet failed to find any oil. Despite their lack of success, she refuses to give up, and is rewarded for her determination by her senior officer and her uncle Jung Man (Ahn Sung Ki) with an extra few months. Although they finally strike black gold, things start to go wrong, with crew members turning up dead under mysterious circumstances, and it doesn’t take long for them to realise that they’re not alone on the rig.
The key to properly enjoying “Sector 7” lies in adjusted expectations. Rather than attempting another genre subverting satirical piece of unlikely genius in the manner of Bong Joon Ho’s much praised “The Host”, Kim Ji Hoon has instead simply decided to deliver a good old fashioned creature feature, albeit one with a great deal of blockbuster bang. This is obviously a good thing, and there’s certainly an audience for big budget schlock, which Kim seems perfectly aware of, sticking pretty closely to the time honoured monster on the loose scenario. Despite its relative lack of originality the film works perfectly well, partly due to the general lack of such fare seen on the big screen of late, and by neither taking itself too seriously nor ever slipping too far into ludicrousness, it makes for fun, unpretentious viewing.
To a large extent this is down to Kim showing a solid knowledge of the genre, keeping things moving at a good pace and throwing in plenty of action. Although the monster is off screen for the first forty five minutes or so, this helps build a little suspense for its eventual unveiling, and after being seen in all its icky glory for the first time, it’s a pleasingly constant presence, claiming a very respectable number of victims as it munches its way through the cast. The set pieces come thick and fast, and though generally obvious are still exciting, with a few extra points being won for the daftness of their often revolving around the decidedly unsafe practice of motorbike racing on an oilrig. Thankfully, though the 3D doesn’t count for much on DVD, the special effects are up to the task, not only in terms of the enjoyably aggressive and gooey (if somewhat “Host” like) monster, but with the production values being top notch all round.
Adding to the overall sense of quality is the fact that the cast are on the whole far better than this kind of film usually deserves. Whilst pretty much all of the characters, right down to Ha Ji Won‘s Ripley style tough girl (though impeccably made up and cute) protagonist, are broad stereotypes, they’re are likeable enough, and their various relationships do at least serve to lend a little impact to their inevitable deaths. Decent performances all round also help, and it’s hard not to get a kick out of seeing legendary and acclaimed actor Ahn Sung Ki facing off against a giant mutated prawn with a flamethrower.
This scene quite neatly sums up “Sector 7” as a fine piece of genre entertainment that whilst scarcely original delivers in all the right ways. With an impressive monster, prestigious cast and a good amount of high octane action, it’s definitely one of the best creature features of late, and offers fans of the form daft fun from start to finish.
Ji-hun Kim (director) / Je-gyun Yun (screenplay)
CAST: Ji-won Ha … Cha / Hae-jun
Sung-kee Ahn … Jeong Man
Ji-ho Oh … Kim / Dong-soo
Ae-ryeon Cha … Scientist Kim
Han-wi Lee … Medic