MOVIE: SECTOR 7 (2011)
WATCH IF YOU LIKE: THE HOST (2006), UNDERWATER (2020), AQUATIC HORROR, ECO-HORROR
There seems to have been a well-deserved resurgence of the aquatic horror film, from Alexandre Aja’s (High Tension) 2019 film Crawl to William Eubank’s (The Signal) Underwater from earlier this year. Sure, we may see space as the final frontier and full of unknowns, but what about what’s on our own planet? What lurks deep under the waves? The possibilities are horrific and endless. This isn’t any different in Ji-hoon Kim’s Korean horror film, Sector 7.
Released in 2011, Sector 7 takes place on an offshore drilling rig where its crew is desperately trying to find oil in sector 7. However, they find more than oil: they discover a new species with a taste for human blood and is seemingly impervious to death. Crew members are picked off one by one as they fight for their lives against a creature from the deepest parts of the ocean.
This film feels like a prototype for Underwater, from the underwater drilling to the badass female lead facing down with the monster. But, unlike Underwater, it leans into a cheesy and almost camp sensibility to create an unrelenting monster and entertaining addition to the monstrous subgenre. It takes a little while to build to the action, but once the film hits its stride, it is non-stop monster madness. With the growing love for the subgenre, here are five reasons why Sector 7 should be on any aquatic horror lover’s watchlist:
1. Badass Female Lead
Just as Underwater has Kristen Stewart playing female badass Norah, Sector 7 has its own amazing female protagonist. Ji-Won Ha (Duelist) plays Cha Hae-joon, one of the only women working on the oil rig. To compensate, she is the most hot-headed and rebellious member of the crew, constantly butting heads with the captain and refusing to give up on finding oil. But she has her own emotional baggage that she hides beneath her rough exterior (naturally).
Once the monster begins unleashing hell on the crew, Hae-joon steps into her role as the final girl as she watches each of her crewmates get eaten, broken, and ripped apart. She is covered in bruises and cuts as she sprints her way around the rig to escape the creature’s jaws. Hae-joon takes absolutely no BS from humans or monsters alike. Ji-won shines on screen as she slashes her way to survival.
2. Horror with a Message
As can be expected, Sector 7 is an ecological horror film about the devastating consequences of drilling into the ocean for resources. Similarly to Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 eco-horror The Host, Sector 7 makes a very blunt and direct statement about our cruel treatment of the planet and the consequences of that cruelty. While Sector 7 is a horror film with a message, that doesn’t keep it from still delivering a violent ride from beginning to end. Where The Host has heart, Sector 7 has guts, and they’re spilling out onto the floor.
3. The Monster
Imagine, if you will, a water bear, or tardigrade. They are a microscopic organism that can live in extreme temperatures and are surprisingly adorable. But what happens when they grow exponentially in size? The monster in Sector 7 looks like a massive water bear with more teeth and more tentacle-like appendages. While the creature starts as tiny and bioluminescent, don’t let the beauty fool you; it evolves into something horrifying and relentless. Nothing can seem to kill it! It is set on fire, blown apart more than once, crushed, and stabbed. It is the Rasputin of aquatic horror and nothing can slow its blood lust. There is an especially memorable scene where a man and the beast have an end-of-a-Western-style showdown where the monster is on fire and the man is wielding a massive metal pipe. There is no shortage of bloody encounters as no one and nothing seems to be able to defeat it.
On top of the creature’s ferocity, it is also coveted by Hae-joon’s uncle. It’s revealed that this creature’s bodily floods can burn up to 30 hours, making it a better alternative to oil. However, there are quite a few consequences to this discovery, as they believe they can breed and harvest from these creatures. His focus on finding a new cash cow blurs his ability to recognize the dangers of such a plan. This is not a monster that will be easily exploited for humanity’s gain.
4. There’s a Motorcycle Race
Yes, there are more motorcycles in this aquatic horror film than could have ever been expected. When you’re out on an oil rig, you only pack the essentials. So of course you bring your motorcycle along to race on the deck when you’re bored. The extended motorcycle race only emphasizes the cheesy, camp vibes of Sector 7 as Hae-joon and her boyfriend race on deck to rock music. It seems totally out of place and merely a set-piece, which yes it is, but it also introduces motorcycles as tools. Yes, at one point Hae-joon uses a motorcycle to set a trap for the creature. There is no need for these motorcycles, but honestly, why not include them? It makes Sector 7 stand out, that’s for sure.
5. The Crushing Claustrophobia of Aquatic Horror
While there isn’t as much underwater traversing as seen in Underwater, Sector 7 still has its moments of intense claustrophobia, both under the sea and on the rig itself. There are of course the key moments where something takes a crew member while they are out in the water. A shadowy figure swims out of the depths then quickly disappears, leaving a blood trail behind. But even more claustrophobic are the narrow hallways of the oil rig. Dimly lit and constantly damp, these cramped passages are not ideal places to meet and battle a giant monster. But, of course, that’s all they have. So, in these tiny halls, human and beast cannot help but clash.
Sector 7 is streaming on Tubi. Have you seen Sector 7 before? What’s your favorite aquatic horror movie? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!