SEPTEMBER 16, 2011
The other day someone asked what my favorite country for horror was, and I said that by default it was the US because it offers the most variety, specifically pointing out that you barely ever see any Asian monster movies (but can throw a rock and hit a dozen vengeful ghost films). So I felt sort of obligated to check out Sector 7, which is indeed a Korean monster film, especially as it was playing theatrically in LA - very rare I get to see any foreign horror on the big screen outside of festivals.
And it was in 3D, but had I done some research I would have known it was a post-convert, which I usually do my best to avoid (especially when I'm buying a ticket), as they all pretty much suck. Indeed, this was the weakest 3D presentation I've seen in ages; even by conversion standards it was very flat and uninvolving, and if not for the fact that they put the damn subtitles in 3D I probably would have just taken the glasses off, since 95% of the time they were the only noticeable part (read: blurry without glasses). Even the CGI monster wasn't particularly life-like in 3D, and they only really do like one "Comin at ya!" shot with him, even though he has tentacles flying around all the time. Maybe this would have been impressive back in the early 00s when 3D films were extremely rare, but nowadays, shit, even My Soul To Take utilized the technology more successfully.
But even in 2D it would be kind of lackluster. The main problem is, sadly, the monster, as it's yet another one of those horribly over-created "things" that seemed to be the joint design of a bunch of guys trying to see what other cool shit they could throw on it in the computer. Tentacles! Spikes! Extra legs! Some sort of circular mouth! I don't understand why monster designers feel the need to make these ugly, non-real world based mutant things nowadays; the best and most iconic monsters are simple in their design: Godzilla, King Kong, the Gremlins, the various Alien creatures - you can draw them or at least describe what they look like. This just looked like some random mess of pixels that you'd find near the end of a Resident Evil game before your final showdown with Wesker or whoever, and if someone took the time to make a toy or model of it I probably wouldn't recognize it without context.
It also doesn't do much that's very cool, nor do the kill/chase scenes have much of a buildup. At one point a guy tries to escape in a submersible, and he sees another guy thought dead swimming toward him. Then, all of a sudden, the monster is on the top of his submersible, which it then smashes a hole in and lets the guy implode/sink while it swims back up. There's no buildup to its appearance whatsoever, and it's over so quick you gotta wonder why they even bothered. The climax also goes on forever; once its down to one person vs. monster the movie just becomes the longest quicktime event/boss battle ever, as our survivor dodges it, does something that you think will incapacitate it for good, only for it to get back up and resume chase, until she dodges it... at least if there were two characters around it could be more fun - saving each other, working together to pull off some sort of counter-offense, that sort of stuff. Instead it's just a long, not particularly exciting chase with an obvious outcome.
Compared to the last monster/oil rig movie I watched though, it's a masterpiece. Like that one, it seems like they've watched Armageddon a couple times, as an opening "oil drill goes bad" sequence plays out almost exactly like the one in the 'geddon, completed with our now oil covered hero turning one last valve and giving a very tired thumbs up to some folks off camera. The music is even very Bruckheimer-ian, taking on a very Zimmer/Pirates feel. Also, the characters have a fun chemistry, particularly in an early bit where they all compare scars and generally have a grand old time. There's also a rather touching bit of "Go! Save yourself!" "NO, I won't leave without you!" type scene, which is extra interesting because it appears that the two male characters in question are also lovers, something you don't see a lot in ANY horror film let alone a foreign one.
I also liked the brief attempt to add some mystery to the proceedings, as someone dies suspiciously and we are led to believe that she was killed by the creepy Peter Lorre sounding guy who was in love with her. Of course we think it was actually the monster, but there's more to it than that, and I was actually sort of intrigued by the idea of there being a human killer as well as a monster - if nothing else it could make up for the few off-screen kills. Also, in the movie's best sequence, one of the older riggers decides to go all Ahab on the damn thing, more or less calling it out and then fighting it directly with a spear and a flamethrower. Badass, man.
One curious thing - the movie was projected at around 2.35:1 and looked horizontally stretched, and the fact that the IMDb lists 1.85:1 as its ratio certainly seems to back up my suspicion. Just curious if anyone had any insight on the matter, as this could be why the 3D effect was so diminished. I've never been to this theater before (the CGV Cinema in Koreatown), and it was very nice inside (reminded me of the Landmark on Pico) with assigned seating and plenty of legroom - in other words, seems like the sort of place that would know better than to show a movie at the wrong aspect ratio. Still, my eyes instantly told me something was "off" about the way people's faces looked.
I assume that the film was some sort of response to The Host (it even shares that film's structure; starting off as a bit goofy and ending on a fairly melancholy note), but that film delivered great, varied monster action and a compelling hero. This one, one the other hand, settled for a generic "girl who's tougher/smarter than the guys" archetype and a monster whose most interesting trait was the fact that he was really clumsy, constantly slipping around and missing his targets. Like the movie as a whole, these elements offered mild amusement, but nothing I'll really remember in a week or so.
What say you?