Let's Get That Monster
Touted as one of the first 3D monster movie coming out of Korea that was a box office sensation, Sector 7 hits all the sweet spots as far as playing up the hunter-prey formula of monster versus helpless humans, but did it take a long time in getting there, weighted down by a pretty lengthy first act that served as an introduction to all the characters involved, and dwelling a bit more into their respective formulaic caricatures before unleashing hell onboard an oil rig crew that doesn't have the luck when it comes to looking for and digging for black gold.
Ha Ji-Won plays Cha Hae-Joon, the lone female oil rig miner besides the other female crew in doctor Hyun-Jung (Cha Ye-Ryeon), in what would be a testosterone filled occupation out in the rough seas. The team seems to be hitting dead ends continuously, and are ordered to cease operations only for Ahn Jung-Man (Ahn Sung-Ki) to return to the rig, and whose intentions will be made clear as the film progresses. But with the skeleton crew left behind, they find what they're looking for, and with that success managed to find time to engage in some shenanigans such as motorbike racing on the rig platform, and trading of war stories through the comparison of scars earned through their tough jobs. It is here of course that we learn of their broad values and principles, which will come useful once the monster gets unleashed.
It isn't the first time that the Koreans have dabbled in monster films, having the very acclaimed The Host and others like Chaw making it to the country's filmography. Sector 7 proves to be a worthy addition to that list, with director Kim Ji-Hun knowing what it takes to keep up the suspense and to build anticipation, and utilizing the best of lighting and camera angles to take the narrative forward, even though one may have to shrug at the story by Yun Je-Gyun which is riddled with the usual formulaic cliches. Characters turn into caricatures and remain wafer thin, and you know just about everyone is fair game to being chomped by the monster, especially those who display negative traits that you will root for karma to make its full circle, even if it means having the narrative go through the necessary convenience.
Themes such as camaraderie and courage are a given, as are minor subplots involving friendships and romance in the middle of the rig south of Jeju Island. Once this film decided to become a monster flick from the halfway mark, it essentially became a Ha Ji-Won vehicle, with the actress having come a long way since her Sex is Zero time, to the tough as nails cookie character who dishes out as good as she receives, aping to reach the ranks of the Ripleys and the Connors through her acrobatic stunts, quick wit and keen sense of survival. That benchmark unfortunately was a little bit hard to reach.
The creature design is certainly one of the best things about the film, with the filmmakers never shy to always want to keep it under wraps or shadows. With such a beautiful beast created, the last thing you want to do is to hide it, so from the onset we get to see what the threat looks like, with its razor like fangs and wicked whip-like tongue, as well as armoured skin making it all quite impervious to just about everything everyone throws at it, from shotgun projectiles to harpoons, yet susceptible to melee weapons such as the good ol' axe. What aced the design was the creature's inherent combustible nature, adding much needed gravitas to plot development and requisite rationale why and how things developed the way they were, as well as being responsible for some of the more aesthetically shot action sequences complete with slow-mo techniques to bring out sheer awe.
But ultimately while Sector 7 can be a guilty pleasure as far as monster flicks go with the hunter very much in control and threatening different prey along the way, it never quite reached the heights it had the potential to. If only it had a less cliche development, added a lot more varied scenes in which fodder got dispatched, and made characters whom we actually care a lot more for, then this would have been something more memorable indeed.