Phase 7 (2011)
★★ / ★★★★
Coco (Daniel Hendler) and Pipi (Jazmín Stuart), expecting twenty-something parents, are out grocery shopping. The silence is broken when Pipi expresses that she wants chocolates and Coco claims they already have some in the cart. Pipi argues she is aware of this but the chocolate bar she has in her hand is different than the one about to be scanned by the cashier. During their little altercation, a crowd of people run inside the supermarket and violently grab carts as if it were Black Friday. The couple do not seem to notice.
Later that day, Coco’s mom, very concerned, telephones and asks her son to turn on the television. It turns out that a mysterious disease has taken over six countries and precautionary measures have to be taken in Argentina. Before they knew it, Coco and Pipi’s apartment building is quarantined.
Written and directed by Nicolás Goldbart, “Fase 7,” also known as “Phase 7,” almost works as a parody of horror movies where the characters have to remain inside a certain place in order to be safe from being infected (and turning into zombies), but it is not exaggerated enough to be funny or horrific in order to communicate something clear either about the genre or the implications behind it.
The majority of the picture’s sense of humor relies on Coco’s inability to catch up with what is really going on. This is portrayed best when, while shaving his beard, he begins to mimic American gangster movies. Despite the urgency of their quarantine and what it might mean for his family, he remains rooted in his own fantasy world. We all know people like him and they are most frustrating. I loved Pipi’s reactions when she catches her husband doing the most ridiculous things. Though she does not necessarily say it, I felt that a part of her regrets marrying and getting impregnated by a child stuck in a man’s body.
I wished she had more scenes. She either looks annoyed at her husband or being very pregnant on the couch. She has a fiery personality so she should have been utilized more. It would have been great if she had done a little bit of investigation inside the building along with her husband and, as the audiences’ voice of reason, constantly told him how incompetent he was when it came to survival. The material is most alive when the central couple is in a state of suspended conflict.
The less impressive subplot involves the apartment residents eventually forming groups. Lange (Abian Vainstein) and Guglierini (Carlos Bermejo), either out of genuine concern or just boredom, decide that they will move those who are sick, due to the unknown disease or the common cold–it does not matter, into the more isolated parts of the building. Those who do not choose to team up with them are murdered. This does not sit well with Horacio (Yayo Guridi), a man who has suspected for some time that the deadly virus outbreak is coming, so he has had enough time to stock up on food and supplies.
Though the scenes involving the neighbors are meant to emphasize the residents’ reactions to the virus, they do not lead anywhere particularly interesting. If designed for the sole purpose of allowing Coco to seem tougher, more adult-like, a reasonable assumption because throughout the course of the film since the T-shirts he wears change from silly to serious, there are less frivolous ways to have achieved the same goal.