Phase 7: Neighbors Battle Neighbors

Nicolás Goldbart's Argentine thriller begins on an innocuous note: a young married couple, as if stepped from an IKEA catalog, shopping contentedly in the overabundance of a big-box store. It will be their last such trip to the market. A global pandemic and quarantine trap them in their high-rise apartment block, where supplies dwindle and neighbors turn against one another. Government aid is mostly absent. The 'Net goes down. Hoarding and scavenging become valuable job skills. Unfortunately, nice guy Coco (Daniel Hendler) is ill-equipped to be ruthless, and his very pregnant wife (Jazmín Stuart) seems content to nest in front of the TV. Phase 7—the number refers to rising threat levels—sets itself up as a zombie or domestic-horror movie, but the violence mainly consists of a shooting feud between two neighbors (one a survivalist who takes trembling Coco under his wing). For Goldbart, the unspecified virus outside isn't like Ebola or SARS, but our complacent consumerism. Coco has no idea how to hunt and kill his dinner, no concept how to defend his cave and mate. Not quite a black comedy, Phase 7 muddies its parable with George H. W. Bush speaking of the New World Order on a modern flat-screen TV, while conspiracy theories about the "controlled reduction" of world population circulate on VHS tapes. These may be the end times, but what decade are we in?

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