Film Review: Phase 7 (Faze 7)
Film Review: Phase 7
Directed by: Nicolas Goldbart,
Starring: Daniel Hendler, Federico Luppi, Jazmin Stuart, Jose “Yayo” Guridi
Review by Mike Snoonian
Most post-apocalyptic movie scenarios depict the everyman protagonist quickly rising to the rank of suburban commando. Even the most lethargic characters quickly find themselves fending off the gravest of perils with previously untapped abilities that would make John McClane jealous. Nicolás Goldbart’s Phase 7 takes a much different approach. Its protagonist prefers to let the authorities sort the whole mess out while he bides time in his apartment. Unfortunately for him, the more he begs off, the more he finds himself thrust into an escalating situation with his neighbors.
The comedic elements of Phase 7 will remind viewers of Shaun of the Dead. Coco (Daniel Hendler) and his very pregnant wife Pipi (Jazmin Stuart) make their way home from the grocery store too busy needling one another to notice that the streets around them have erupted in chaos. Once they hear the news bulletin that a viral epidemic has hit several countries and Argentina is under martial law, the couple appears content to calmly wait things out rather than panic. Even after the men in Hazmat suits lock the apartment building down, trapping the residents inside, Coco simply takes inventory of the food, makes a quick rationing plan and switches on the local football match.
Despite his best efforts to let the situation resolve itself, Coco finds himself drawn into conflicts within the building by his next door neighbor and conspiracy theorist Horacio (Yayo Guridi). Coco receives a bag of supplies from the man, including a handgun and a tape espousing the theory that governments have enacted Phase 7, a plan to wipe out a large segment of the population when the world economy becomes unstable to the point of collapse. Grateful for the light bulbs but eager to get away from the troubled man, Coco quickly retreats back to the confines of his apartment to catch up on television, reading and sleeping.
Events take a turn however, and Coco finds himself in the middle of a situation with his neighbors. When a group attempts to extract a cantankerous Zanutto (Frederico Luppi) from his apartment, they soon find out they’ve awoken The Punisher of the senior set. A Maniac inspired shotgun blast starts Zanutto on a quest to rid the rest of his building from meddlesome neighbors.
The minute Coco teams with Horacio to bring the rogue neighbor down, Phase 7 finds its footing as a drama/comedy hybrid. Like any of us that lead a relatively cushy life in our city or suburban confines, Coco proves to be woefully unprepared for the task at hand. An extended bit where Horacio attempts a series of complicated hand gestures instructing a baffled Coco how to proceed plays for big laughs. Coco’s herky jerky movements and attempts to use a firearm look like something akin to your spastic toddler nephew playing cops and robbers in the backyard.
Luppi’s performance as the unhinged Zanutto keeps from devolving into a full blown parody. He adds a very real menace to the film, calmly piling up a body count, including children, while showing no signs of remorse. His presence serves as a reminder that one botched move on Coco’s part will prove fatal to himself, along with the unaware Pipi and their unborn child. These stalking sequences with the characters imprisoned in their building play out like [REC] minus the rabid horde of zombies. Goldbart handles the action sequence with ease, including a tense shootout in a parking garage lit only by the short bursts of gunfire.
Phase 7 ultimately becomes a difficult movie to categorize. Goldbart keeps the pace deliberately languid throughout the proceedings, never allowing the action to blowup into an all out horror film or comic farce. The low key approach signifies how most of us would greet the onset of the apocalypse – with a bit of a yawn and a casual questioning as to whether the event will interrupt our favorite television schedule. That said, if I learned one thing from the film, it’s to always make nice with the neighbor unafraid to forfeit one’s security deposit in order to turn a standard two bedroom unit into a Doomsday shelter.
Mike Snoonian writes the horror blog AllThingsHorrorOnline.net and curates a monthly horror series at the Somerville Theater in Boston, MA.