Perhaps this is unfair, but whenever I hear the phrase "Korean monster movie," I immediately think of the (still) fantastic 2006 creature feature known simply as The Host. There is a genre film that manages to wedge a whole lot of disparate lunacy into its hefty two-hour frame. In addition to being overstuffed with great monster mayhem, The Host has some strong comedy, a weirdly earnest vibe, a dash of devious sci-fi, and enough kooky character development to make the exposition and "slow spots" worthy of some attention.
The most recent Korean monster movie to cross our plate is the rather expensive, stunningly mindless, and endlessly derivative Sector 7 -- but that's not to say there's not some fun to be found here ... eventually. Set on an oil rig and populated by the broadest caricatures to ever unknowingly awaken a ravenous monster, Sector 7 has none of the wit, warmth, or depth of The Host. (If The Host is King Kong, then Sector 7 is Predator 2, at best.) Clocking in at exactly 100 minutes, Sector 7 is 50 minutes of awful set-up, grating character introductions, meaningless conversations, and a laundry list of dreary cliches. Sorta romance between the leading lady and a bland nice guy, check. A few goofballs who are supposed to be endearing but end up as obnoxious, yep. A noble commander who has a secret mission regarding his team's deep-drill mission, of course. It's all flat.
But then, at precisely the 50-minute mark (I went back and checked), Sector 7 goes from an accidental farce and a dramatic trainwreck to a willfully broad (and, yes, stupid) comic-book style action/horror hybrid that makes up for in audacity and energy what it lacks in logic and originality. I'm not saying you should start the movie at the 50-minute mark -- that's a crappy way to watch any movie, even a halfway-terrible one like Sector 7 -- but if you're a monster movie maniac, I can assure you that this flick does improve on its tiresome and frankly amateurish first half. Be patient!
Once the monster shows up, that's when Sector 7 goes from virtually unlikable to suitably entertaining. Although clearly inspired by The Host, Sector 7 has a lot more in common with run-of-the-mill maritime monster movies like Deepstar Six (1988) and Leviathan (1989), and if approached on that level, there's a decent parcel of energetic insanity tucked into the tail-end of the movie. It's little more than a hyper-stylized series of elaborate action sequences and death scenes, but there's a belligerent persistence that makes all the mayhem a little bit lovable. Or perhaps it's just that, after suffering through almost an hour of stolen ideas, bad acting, and paper-thin ideas, any sort of activity would be an improvement.
Director Ji-hun Kim simply ladles the action stuff all over the second half of Sector 7, and while many of the 3-D gimmicks will be pointless on a 2-D display, there's also a slick and playful flow to the cinematography that adds to the comic-book vibe laid down by the broad characters, obvious trappings, and the basic yet admirably tenacious monster. Created almost entirely with CGI, the Sector 7 creature looks like a cousin of the Relic beast, and while the movie never asks him to be scary, it does allow him to be vicious, violent, and crazily difficult to kill. The lead actress is adorable and the musical score is actually quite good, but it's the biological mega-monster that makes Sector 7 a passably entertaining export. As South Korea's first ever IMAX 3D production, Sector 7 may be seen as a big disappointment to some, but I'd contend that once you get past the halfway point, there's definitely some worthwhile and moderately exciting eye candy. It almost feels like a reward.