If you took a random poll asking people to name the most mysterious place on Earth the answers you’d receive would be fairly widespread. Some would say The North Pole, others Madagascar, and Robert Fure would reply with a woman’s g-spot. But surely someone, somewhere would answer correctly.
And that correct answer lay beneath the surface of the Earth’s oceans.
Hollywood is well aware of this fact and has explored and exploited our fear of the unknown in films both great and small, from The Abyss to Sphere, with stops at all levels of quality in between. Two such movies released in 1989, Deepstar Six and Leviathan, bypassed subtlety and any real sense of mystery in favor of creature feature thrills, chills and at least a modicum of fun. Both are worth watching on late night cable, but Leviathan is the better of the two thanks in large part to the presence of Peter Weller.
And now twenty two years later South Korea has jumped into the bloody pool with Sector 7, but unlike the films above its efforts to (intentionally) entertain come up dry.
A deep sea diver off the coast of Korea in 1985 stands on the ocean floor checking a drill pipe for damage, but he finds himself distracted by a gaggle of small, luminous creatures swimming around his head. Before he can say “holy tiny Abyss ripoffs!” the ground beneath his feet begins to rumble and collapse beneath him. Almost three decades later we fly over and into an oil mining platform in an area called sector 7, and all hell is breaking loose. One of the drills has spring a leak, and in a scene played and paced like the most dramatic and serious thing that could ever happen on an oil rig the men run around and grimace in an effort to stem the tide. Cha Hae-joon (Ha Ji-won), the hot but aggressively bull headed woman on the crew jumps into action and saves the day.
Then gives a forceful thumbs up to show that it’s all going to be okay.
Except it isn’t, because soon people start turning up dead, and while a human culprit is suspected at first it quickly becomes clear that they’re facing something far worse. An angry sea creature resembling a Lovecraftian walrus has boarded the platform intent on destroying everyone. What is this monster, and where did it come from? And why is no one paying attention to the creepy little guy who was just bitten on the face by one of those little glowing animals?
I’m genetically predisposed to give a pass to movies starring attractive women, and Ha definitely fits the bill. She’s cute as hell, spunky and does a fine job in the over the top heroine role, but the movie is so bad in just about every other area that not even a beautiful and capable Asian actress is enough to save it. Yeah, it’s that bad.
The special effects are one of the film’s earliest and biggest downfalls which is never a good thing in an action/sci-fi/horror film. The oil platform itself is represented via CGI or some obvious stage background, and a motorcycle race (?) early on (that you know will play a big part later on) looks less realistic than any scene in Speed Racer. Korea’s finest monster moment remains The Host, but the one here manages to be the film’s most effective visual effect even if the creature design seems a bit odd. It’s hard to feel threatened by something flopping around on its front flippers.
The movie also suffers from a screenplay that pays homage to other genre films at the expense of doing anything original. Cha is the stereotypical female lead following the Alien mold, the creature’s origin is revealed to be due to man’s hubris and greed and there’s even a scene where a handful of characters compare scars a la the one from Jaws. The characters themselves are cheap caricatures that fit the hero, bad guy, and expendable roles, and just about all of the actors seem to be competing as to who can overact the most. And the third act? The entire third act? One overly long and drawn out battle that alternates between fights and running for what seems like a full hour… only to end with unearned and desperate melodrama.
Sector 7 has some unintentionally entertaining moments, but the handful of laughs you’ll get from the overly expressive performances and ridiculously fake motorcycle race can’t make up for the lack of thrills, scares and scenes of interest. Several of the key players here, both in front of and behind the camera, also worked on the Korean disaster pic Tidal Wave. That film mixed special effects and melodrama to a far more entertaining result. Skip this one and rent that instead.
Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week looking for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent!