Sunday, March 3, 2013

Horror Film Review

Sector 7 (2011):  Here's what I've learned over the years regarding foreign cinema:  you want a good zombie flick, go to the Brits or French.  Freaky-ass witches?  Italy.  Ghosts?  Thailand (Japan will do in a pinch if you like pissed off girl spirits with buggy eyes and insanely long black hair).  Monsters?  Well, your first instinct might be to also say Japan, but you'd be wrong.  No, South Korea is where to go for monster movies these days.  And wouldn't you know it, Sector 7 is a Korean monster movie.  What are the odds?  Deal with the subtitles, by the way. 

It begins with a flashback.  A guy's on the sea floor troubleshooting the pipe when there's some rumbling and shaking and these tiny, glowing fish-things pop out of cracks in the earth, which then explodes and kills the guy.  Back to the present where we are introduced to an oil rig crew that's had no luck finding oil.  Their unofficial leader is Cha Hae-joon (Ji-won Ha...she's the one in the middle on the poster) whose nickname is "Hard Ass" and refuses to quit when the Captain (Jeong-hak Park...not on the poster) decides to pull the plug.  You see, the guy that got killed in the flashback was her father.  Her sort-of-not-really boyfriend Kim Dong-soo (Ji-ho Oh...the guy on the left) is the hunky hero type and Lee Jeong-man (Seong-gi Ahn...the guy on the right) is a well-respected veteran of the rig flown in to oversee the shut down but ends up backing Hae-joon to stay and keep digging for that black gold.  Oops.  You know, it's really not what you think.  The monster is not something they awaken or accidentally release from a heretofore unknown ecosystem.  Nope.  Turns out that Jeong-man (that's the veteran guy) discovered many years ago that those pretty little glow fish are actually made of a pure form of petroleum and could be the holy grail of Korea's search for energy self-sufficiency.  Of course, there's the ethical dilemma of killing the cute buggers, burning them alive to be precise, to get it.  The veteran went a step further and secretly experimented with breeding and mutating them to create bigger ones.  Yeah, guess how well that went?  Now the secret's out, as is the creature that's now the size of a rhino and looks like what you'd get if you crossed a scorpion with a jellyfish and then with Jabba the Hutt.  It's not pretty.  So it's loose and knocking off the crew one by one until only the three on the poster are left.  Jeong-man battles the critter one-on-one in some kind of attempt at atonement.  Doesn't work.  The creature keeps coming back.  Again and again.  And again.  And yet again.  I'm not kidding, the movie should have been called The Fucker Won't Die.  Eventually, we end up with an Aliens-like showdown with Hae-joon and a very battered but still pissed off monster.  Oh, and did I mention the oil rig's self-destruct mechanism was activated?  (Is that a real thing?  I can see starships having self-destruct sequences but oil rigs?)  Anyway, lots of running and fighting, close calls and narrow escapes, and ultimately Hae-joon on a motorcycle making a beeline for the edge of the helipad as the boom clock counts down to zero. 

The supporting characters in this film are not throwaways but fully fleshed out and therefore we have an emotional investment in them.  The two guys who play best friends are a lot of fun.  There's a weird, nerdy spaz guy nobody takes seriously and you end up feeling sorry for him.  There's the really young guy you'd think of as a kid brother, a doctor who's mostly a buffoon, and a scientist lady who was in on the experiments with the veteran.  And finally the captain who winds up pulling a Burke (another Aliens reference, meaning he saves his own skin at the expense of others). 

Questions.  I have a few.  Why do they have motorcycles and shotguns on an oil rig (not to mention a self-destruct protocol)?  If the creature's blood is flammable (did I mention its blood is flammable?) why didn't die the first time they torched it?  What was it doing with the bodies of those it killed?  One scene looked as though it was building some kind of slimy nest with them but it wasn't revisited.  I know it sounds odd, but the creature could have used more fleshing out.  Yeah, I get it.  Monster movie, not Shakespeare.  Still...


Acting:  Ji-won Ha as Hae-joon is a little over the top and manic most of the time.  Seong-gi Ahn as the veteran is awesome.  He's like a Korean Sean Connery.  Ji-ho Oh as hunky boyfriend is also very good.
Story:  I like that they spent the time weaving a decent plot that's not the usual cliché.  They erred, however, in the climax where they asked us to suspend our disbelief just a tad too much.  Fucker wouldn't die...
Direction:  These kind of films are tricky to put together and even more tricky to execute properly.  Ji-hoon Kim handled it better than I thought possible.  I was, I must say, riveted. 
Production Values:  No clue about budget amount.  That being said, you genuinely feel like you're on an oil rig in the middle of the sea.  It's gritty and grimy and realistic as anything I've seen in a movie.  Lots of good exterior shots from a chopper and creative CGI blend almost seamlessly into the sets they built.  Almost.  It actually has the feel of a big budget film.  Hollywood caliber if not better.
Gore/FX:  Some blood, obviously, but no gratuitous gore.  No shots of the monster ripping heads off or munching on innards.  The monster is a purely CGI construct which is sometimes off-putting because it's so plainly computer generated.  It's not bad most of the time, though.  The CGI fire is spectacular. 
Scares:  Not really.  However, there was definitely lots of edge of your seat, armrest gripping tension. 
Ending:  There were many.  Like I said, the thing wouldn't die.  The truly final ending could have used a bit of a twist instead of going for tears.  It should have ended with Hae-joon in the rescue chopper...and then the creature should have been clinging to its skid. 
Verdict:  Should you see Sector 7?  If you like monster flicks, then you betcha.  It is technically horror, but it comes across as more action/adventure to me.  Like AliensAliens was such a good movie.  Sector 7 isn't that good, but it's worth 100 minutes of your time.

Rating:  4 out of 5


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