After spending so much time covering director Kim Ji-hoon’s deep sea monster movie “Sector 7”, you’d think that my lofty expectations would completely ruin the experience for me. And, truthfully, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous when I finally had the opportunity to sit down with this deeply entertaining albeit severely flawed creature feature. Had the picture sported washed-up American actors and lots of gratuitous nudity, it would have been unceremoniously tossed into production as a SyFy Saturday evening feature, an easy digestible slice of digital celluloid that can be consumed and forgotten in the span of two hours. “Sector 7”, although enjoyable, really isn’t any more sophisticated than its poorly-written, low-budget brethren. It’s certainly no slouch, mind you, but it doesn’t come close to reaching the top of the proverbial pile.
The film follows the perilous adventures of a ragtag group of oil riggers who, according to their superiors, are wasting a phenomenal amount of time drilling for Texas tea in the middle of Sector 7. Apparently the area has a storied past, but that doesn’t stop its headstrong crew from believing that there’s black gold located somewhere beneath the ocean floor. After receiving some help from the main character’s hyper-intelligent uncle, the crew is allowed to stay. However, what they don’t know is that a horrifying monster is about to seize control of the entire rig, and the ultimate fight for their lives will begin. If you’ve seen any of these oceanic creature features — “Deep Rising” suddenly springs to mind — then you know the film isn’t about the story at all. Truthfully, it’s all about the monster, the tension, and the body count. “Sector 7” offers up plenty of everything.
In regards to story, screenwriter Yoon Je-kyoon definitely drops the ball. Not only is the plot practically non-existent, the characters are either impossibly annoying or ridiculously stupid. Ha Ji-won, who stars as the film’s saucy heroine, struggles to make you believe that professional oil rigger Cha Hae-joon is one seriously badass chick, though almost all of her efforts tend to fall flat. Watching her recklessly race motorcycles up and down the rig is supposed to help us buy into her inherent toughness, a sequence that’s ultimately destroyed by some surprisingly lousy special effects. All I could see was Ha Ji-won on a prop bike, dramatically leaning left and right in front of an enormous green screen. And while the girl does kick a fair amount of ass throughout, it’s never very authentic. The rest of the characters, meanwhile, are totally forgettable. Good thing I don’t care about this stuff when I’m watching a monster movie, right?
Unfortunately, “Sector 7” doesn’t sport a very good creature, either. Not only is the beast visually unappealing and decidedly ill-conceived, it’s also poorly rendered; there’s never a moment when I thought the hunter and the prey were in the same room together. A few of the chase sequences are pretty intense, and the motorcycle-centric finale is somewhat thrilling, but the overall lack of polish on damn near everything prevents the film from achieving any sort of success. Had Kim Ji-hoon and Yoon Je-kyoon opted for the “less is more” approach to monster movie-making, this may have worked in the picture’s favor. After all, if you can’t make your creature look believable, what’s the point of putting it directly in front of the camera?
Judging from the critiques you just read, perhaps you think that I didn’t enjoy “Sector 7”. On the contrary, I had an absolute blast watching an enormous underwater behemoth lay waste to an oil rig and its crew of paper-thin employees. In fact, if you can overlook the film’s numerous issues, chances are you will have a great time with the it, as well. However, if you’re the sort of discerning individual who requires a bit more depth from your genre flicks, then there’s a very strong possibility that you’ll walk away from this endeavor with nothing but negative things to say. And, honestly, I can’t blame you. “Sector 7” has a lot of problems, the majority of which could have been solved by spending more time with the script a bit more money on the effects. As it stands, the film is enjoyable for what it is, though I doubt you’ll feel the urge to revisit it anytime soon.
Kim Ji-hoon (director) / Yoon Je-kyoon (screenplay)
CAST: Ha Ji-won … Cha Hae-joon
Ahn Seong-gi … Jeong-man
Oh Ji-ho … Kim Dong-soo