7 Gwanggu (Sector 7) (Ji-hun Kim, 2011)
The first stop on this particular train ride actually has very little to do with this movie. It is Joon-ho Bong’s megahit The Host, filmed five years before and, for a while, the highest-grossing film in the history of South Korean cinema. (Wikipedia still lists it as such, though some outlets are reporting that it has been overtaken by Hwan-kyung Lee’s Miracle in Cell No. 7.) Why? Because you can no longer make a monster movie, especially one with a seagoing monster, in Korea and not be compared to The Host any more than you can make a giant-killer-shark movie in America and not have it be compared to Jaws. Just ain’t gonna happen. Which brings me to the question surrounding the making and release of this film that should have, it seems to me, been painfully obvious: if you’re going to take the same basic formula and then strip away everything from it that made The Host such a success, should you expect your movie to bomb?
Plot: On an oil rig off the coast of South Korea, one of the massive drills stops working. The diver sent down to check what’s going on discovers something very strange indeed…and ends up paying for the discovery with his life. Fast-forward to a time in the future (I couldn’t exactly tell how long—the time scheme in this movie doesn’t quite make sense). Sector 7 has been closed to drilling since the accident, and is slated to be officially decommissioned, but the folks in charge, convinced that there is oil to be found there, decide to try a bit of covert drilling to see if they can get rich before shutting down the rig. Almost immediately, people start dying, and it’s up to Hae-joon (Phone‘s Ji-won Ha) to figure out why before she ends up looking like the rest of the crew.
First off, one of my pet peeves, and I will simply mention it and say no more: any movie that requires an “I brought you all together to explain how I solved the crime!” scene a la Poirot is going to push my buttons, and not in a good way. Yes, there is one here, just before the climax. As usual, I wondered why [the person listening to the explanation] didn’t simply shoot [the person droning on endlessly] [NOTE: spoilers removed]. But man, if you’re going to make what is essentially a Host rip-off, at least come up with some good monster effects, you know? And I have to say, watching that first scene, where the diver first encounters the creature, I had hopes for this movie. It’s gorgeously-shot, with wonderful underwater camerawork, including watching a massive whale pass slowly by the camera, and I absolutely loved it. Things went downhill from there pretty quick.
Still, well, it’s not the worst monster movie I’ve ever seen, thanks to the raft of crappy monster movies unleashed by the Sci-Fi Channel over the past twenty years—but do yourself a favor and watch The Host again instead. Joon-ho Bong understood that playing it cheesy was the way to go, where Sector 7‘s biggest problem, even with all of the above said, is that it plays this movie as straight as it can. Very bad move indeed. **