by Jason Coffman
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Horror web site Bloody Disgusting has recently gotten into the distribution business, releasing a series of films in limited theatrical runs and on DVD under the banner Bloody Disgusting Selects. Their selections so far have been a varied lot, including Cold Fish by Sion Sono and Lucky McKee’s controversial The Woman. Their international roster is interesting to say the least, and their commitment to finding little-known but quality genre films is admirable. Even more so now that they have brought Argentinian writer/director Nicolás Goldbart’s debut feature, Phase 7 to the States.
The first indication that something is not right comes when Coco (Daniel Hendler) and his very pregnant wife Pipi (Jazmín Stuart) are checking out at the grocery store and a horde of people rushes in. By the time they’ve put the groceries away, it’s on the news: there have been outbreaks of an extremely contagious fatal disease in different parts of the world. Before the day is out a government team comes to their apartment building to inform the residents that they have all been quarantined. They are assured that a doctor will be sent in to check them out and that the quarantine will be lifted after everyone is confirmed to be free of the virus.
Once on lockdown, things quickly deteriorate in the building. Two neighbors begin planning to kill suave Zanutto (the legendary Federico Lupi), while Horacio (Yayo Guridi) seems to have been prepping for this situation for ages and takes Coco on recon missions in the building. They observe their neighbors and set up booby traps in the stairwell in case anyone gets any ideas. As the situation in the outside world deteriorates, Pipi stays inside as Coco has to deal with a similar situation in the building: Zanutto appears to go insane, other neighbors are sick, and the government trailer out in the parking lot remains eerily silent.
While it doesn’t sound like it, Phase 7 is something of a comedy. Coco shields Pipi from the worsening relations and rising tensions among the building’s neighbors and awkwardly follows Horacio on his missions. Horacio’s booby traps and Coco’s lack of military training lead to some clever and perfectly-timed slapstick, while Coco’s attempts to prevent Pipi from realizing how bad things are outside recalls classic farce. It takes a while to set up the characters, but once the film gets going Phase 7 moves quickly, the darkly comic second half of the film punctuated by bursts of action and gruesome violence.
Phase 7 is a decidedly unique take on the “outbreak” horror subgenre, and while it will inevitably draw comparisons to [REC], the similarities are passing at best. From its dark comedy offset with brightly saturated colors to its excellent electronic score and great cast, Phase 7 is one of the best “horror” films of the year. Huge thanks to Bloody Disgusting for giving this little gem a chance to be seen in the States!
The Collective released Phase 7 on DVD on 4 October 2011. Special features include deleted scenes and an English dubbed version of the film.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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