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Quarantined in their apartment during a pandemic, a young couple must deal with misinformation and quirky, increasingly unstable neighbors.
COMMENTS: Coco (Daniel Hendler) and Pipi (Jazmin Stuart) are a naive, happy couple who do normal kinds of things, like go to the grocery on Saturday morning. This Saturday morning is different however. On their way back, people begin swarming the streets in a panic. An epidemic has broken out and if the media is to believed, it's becoming worse by the minute. Monitoring the situation from home, Coco and Pipi's evening is interrupted by floodlights and loudspeakers. Their building's been quarantined and the emergency respondents are cordoning it off under a huge plastic tent, as if the tenants are termites to be exterminated. They find themselves sealed into their own apartment complex, forbidden to leave. They can only watch from their windows as the outside world turns to bedlam around them.
Bedlam is not confined to the outside for long. Inside, resources dwindle, utilities are cut off, and fellow residents get cabin fever and panic. Coco does his best to keep his head, protect Pipi, and hold down the fort.
It's not easy. It turns out that doomsday scenarios aren't necessarily like fast-paced action movies. Caught in the doldrums, Coco and Pipi are stuck waiting, waiting, waiting... Instead of excitement and contingency, the experience for the group of tenants is more about nagging spouses, running out of lightbulbs and toiletries, and putting up with annoying neighbors, i.e. each other -for awhile that is.
As the situation outside increases in severity, tension mounts. Pipi unwittingly works against Coco by innocently leaking critical personal information about their situation to an untrustworthy neighbor. Tenants fraction into factions. Coco must decide whether to go along with the prevailing group or stay out of it. The situation inside the complex degenerates further when under the auspices of moving a possibly infected neighbor off their floor, it becomes clear that the do-good members of the "apartment association" cell are out for their own gain. One thing leads to another and they attempt to force their way in on a fellow resident to loot his provisions.
The bodies begin to pile up. Residents are dying, but is it from a hemorrhagic plague, or are they being murdered? Sadly, Coco's best option seems to be to join forces with his paranoid but gregarious, survivalist upstairs friend Horacio (Yayo Guridi). He's a nice guy, but maybe insane. Horacio's apartment turns out to be a high-tech, reinforced bunker complete with an armory of automatic weapons, electronic surveillance equipment, maps, and stacks of classified government information. Horacio wants Coco to join forces with him, and offers him a CBR protective suit and a firearm. Then he invites Coco on patrol with him through the darkened stairwells and corridors of their massive apartment building. The neighbors are up to some monkey business of their own and these nightly sojourns through the edifice's labyrinthine passages turn out to be enlightening in an upsetting and disturbing kind of way. Maybe Horacio isn't so paranoid after all. He seems to know an awful lot about what's going on, more than anyone else. But can Coco trust him? Blackly comic but subtly so, Phase 7 combines suspense, grim social commentary, and unsettling insight into human nature in a thriller format which is interrupted by moments of horror. Artfully shot and well paced, Phase 7 makes dramatically good use of camera angles and framing. Lighting is alternately glaring and sterile, and gloomily claustrophobic. This emphasizes the film's thematic contrast; the delineation between the bright, logical, outside world of society, authority and officialdom, versus the insular, isolated, inner world of sanctuary and retreat. Yet as the film goes on, we begin to detect a double meaning; authority is questionable. Society is reasonable strictly on its surface, and only so long as everything is going well. Safe refuge, once cut off from the outside world, can quickly degenerate into an insular den of suspicion, irrational fear, and schizophrenia.
It's the cinematography that accomplishes this. Our sickening epiphany arrives not just from Phase 7's dialogue and action, but from a dual interpretation made possible by the very lighting and camera work itself. Ultimately, Phase 7 is about masquerade; how things -people and situations -can turn out to be something very different from their daily representations.
In Phase 7, Coco discovers that he can't trust anyone or anything other than his own judgment and instincts, but the trouble comes from not knowing for sure whether his personal interpretations are sound. Under the circumstances, with little reliable input to go on, and multiple variables and potential explanations for what's happening, every course of action is a gamble. Coco must do his best to make the right choices to deliver himself and Pipi from myriad dangers which mount behind every turn of their complex's twisting stairwells, foreboding cavernous parking garage, and eerily dimmed corridors.
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