Sector 7 (2011)
By: Stuart Giesel on October 9, 2012 | Comments
[dvd]Eastern Eye | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Korean DTS 5.1 | 97 minutes[/dvd] (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Kim Ji-hoon
Starring: Ha Ji-Won, Ahn Sung-kee, Oh Ji-Ho, Cha Ae-Ryeon
Screenplay: Kim Ji-hoon
Country: South Korea
External Links
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No, this isn't the story of Homer Simpson's adventures in the Springfield Nuclear Powerplant (that'd be Sector 7-G) but rather a South Korean monster movie in the vein of The Host.

There's absolutely no need to go into the plot other than to say this: oil rig, human crew, sea monster. That's it. The crew get picked off one by one by a terrifying creature - some people act heroic, others cowardly, et cetera. You've seen this a hundred times before, right down to the different types that comprise the crew - stubborn and tough heroine, bland heroine's love interest, gibbering idiot comic relief, arsehole leader, stoic seasoned pro. Sector 7 isn't fresh enough to break free from the stale stalk-n'-kill material, instead relying on 3D cinematography and green screen trickery - apparently new features for Korean cinema - instead of a clever plot or interesting characters. Its over reliance on sub-par CGI is the final nail in its coffin.

The oil rig setting is one that's not often used (the last one I remember is from Michael Bay's mind-numbing Armageddon) and is an effective environment for this sort of movie. In fact, the Sector 7 area of the title refers to a real-life section of ocean that's apparently meant to contain tons of oil, an area whose mining rights will expire in another decade - this is all explained at the end of the film rather than the start, for some reason. Anyway, kudos for using a real world location that has political implications. Unfortunately the oil rig looks completely fake as depicted on screen, because most of the film is CGI - apparently a first for Korean cinema. In the making of the cast and crew sound proud of that fact. They shouldn't be. This ain't Avatar, and when you're going for 80%+ CGI in your film, you'd better have a James Cameron-sized budget to match, or you get what we're presented with in Sector 7 which is CGI no better than from a mid-90's computer game cut-scene. The opening scene feels like an ultra-cheap version of The Abyss, and the wide shots of the oil rig never look realistic. Everything has an overly post-processed glow to them. I believe this was shown in 3D in South Korea, which explains the oddly distracting video quality of the final product in its present 2D incarnation. Even stuff that could have been done for real isn't - the scenes on bikes are horribly fake. Isn't anything filmed for real these days? In the making of, director Kim Ji-Hoon explains that he wanted to make a film that was technically perfect. Despite the fact that this did not happen, that speaks volumes about his preferences for the final quality of the film, and that the other aspects of the film - namely acting, characterisation, script, atmosphere, tension, surprises - are lacking.

All this wouldn't be so much of an issue were this a spoof or if it didn't take itself too seriously, but Sector 7 is deadly serious. It earnestly tries to thrill and shock and scare the audience, but not once does it succeed. Unfortunately there are a bunch of cliches too: the pass-over-the-water intro, a "comparing scars" routine straight out of Jaws, the old pro/mentor who has a secret, the camera pan through a door window (which I remember was first done back in 1997's Contact), the coward who locks the heroes in, the creature who just won't fricking die (how many times does it come back from death - five?) and so on. And the method in which the creature will be ultimately dispatched is pretty badly telegraphed, so all we can do is sit back and await the inevitable with a yawn.

Cast-wise, the only two actors who make anything closely approaching an impression are Ha Ji-won as the heroine Hae-jun and Ahn Sung-kee as wizened old salt Jeong Man, and Hae-jun's uncle, who comes aboard the rig for reasons of his own. Ha Ji-won presumably is intended to follow the female-action-heroine role as typified by Sigourney Weaver, Angelina Jolie or Milla Jovovich. She does a decent job, but her character is so thinly drawn so there's not much for her to work with. It also doesn't help that her action scenes (mainly on bike) are enhanced with some of the most woeful CGI used in the film. Ahn Sung-kee underplays his role, which is a nice counterbalance against the other actors who exaggerate their every action. The other performers are entirely forgettable. There's a shit doctor who clearly took the job on the rig because he's been barred from working in any clinic or hospital in South Korea. There's the love interest who...can ride a bike, I guess, because we don't know what else he's capable of or what his background is. The other woman on the rig, Hyeon-jeong, is some sort of scientist who seems to have little purpose on the rig other than to spout generalised theories about the origins of the creatures. There are a couple of morons working the rig, one in particular who gets bitten by a sea creature and spends much of his screentime with a horrible bite on his lip (I guess the doctor has too much else to do rather than take a look at it). This character is easily the most annoying person in the film; he talks like someone's got a clamp on his balls and he constantly flirts with the scientist woman despite having swollen, grotesque lips from the bite and acts like a rapist. In fact, I think the character might be retarded. And yet another slap in the face is the fact that we're even robbed of a decent death for this idiot.

You'll probably only like Sector 7 if you're a completely undemanding viewer, and if you loved Bong Joon-ho's The Host (which I did enjoy, but found overlong and overrated). This is pretty much more of the same, except with more generic heroes. Like The Host, the best bits are when the creature remains covered, and some of the tension is deflated when we see the creature in all its glory. Unlike The Host however, the creature in Sector 7 is a letdown. The design is interesting, but the execution, like most of the film, is underwhelming, thanks again to ropey CGI. Gone are the days where you'd get fantastic practical creature effects like Rob Bottin's work in John Carpenter's The Thing, effects which still hold up today. Instead we have a bunch of 1s and 0s that kids generate with fancy software, producing effects that wouldn't be impressive ten years ago, let alone in 2012. The film even skimps on the gore, despite what you might think from its perplexing MA rating and classification description ("strong horror violence" indeed).

By ripping off or recalling immeasurably better films - Alien, Aliens, The Abyss, The Host and Jaws to name a few - and relying on substandard CGI to sell tickets, Sector 7 was destined to go down in flames of mediocrity. It's only sporadically entertaining, but mostly a chore to get through, sad news indeed for what's supposed to be a fun monster movie.
Video
Ignoring the actual quality of the film itself - which, as I've explained, greatly suffers thanks to lame CGI - the presentation on the DVD is extremely fine. Colours and detail are superb (especially in with non-CGI material), and even the darkest scenes don't appear murky.
Audio
Nothing to complain about here, even if the score sounds a little too much like Hans Zimmer's and James Newton Howard's work from Christopher Nolan's Batman films at times. Both the DTS and the 5.1 tracks pump up what little excitement the film is able to generate. Still, it would have been appreciated if the sound designers had made monster sound effects that were more unique - the monster's generic 'rrraawwwgghh' gets old pretty quick.
Extra Features
The DVD is populated with a number of very short features. Despite their length, a lot of footage and comments are repeated.

Making of Sector 7: This short making-of feels like it was made to convince prospective international buyers that this was a legitimate Korean blockbuster. All it shows is how much green screen was used.

Cast Interviews: The actors talk about how hard their job was because they had to act against lots of green screen. No shit - they should have asked Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson and others from the Star Wars prequels about how annoying the process is. Nothing to learn here.

Action Choreography: A useless look at some of the motorcycle 'stunts' in the film - mostly comprises footage from the other features.

Visual Effects: Less a look at the insipid CGI effects used in the film and more about the green screen filming.

The disc also contains a trailer for Sector 7 and some other Madman releases all of which look better than Sector 7.
The Verdict
Sector 7 is a tiresome and derivative creature film, scuttled by inferior CGI, a plodding script and generic characters. Do yourself a favour and rewatch The Host instead.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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