Phase IV Screen 6 articles

Phase IV

1974

Phase IV Poster
  • Despite these embarrassing playbacks, and the stilted performances, which make them even less tenable, Phase IV cannot be written off as a film lacking either originality or talent. In keeping with his celebrated background as a designer of film credits, Bass imposes himself graphically even when he falters dramatically, and some isolated shots and sequences are impressive indeed, although they usually work against the grain of any intended suspense or narrative momentum.

  • One of those mesmerising failures only the ‘70s could throw up. While it’s hard to ascertain what exactly it is that finally scuppers this fantastically bizarre science fiction/horror oddity – you can take your pick from the overblown acting, the plot holes or the perpetually declamatory script – the conspicuous lack of scares is certainly a viable candidate. The problem here is, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of anthropomorphism or rather its limits.

  • It’s a movie that seems to have been designed more than directed, and edited around principles of color and line, rather than around performance or plot. Its perspective is impartial—which is what makes it so discomfiting. The soundtrack—which includes contributions from cult Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta and members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop—only heightens the sense of alienating unease.

  • Phase IV, lies somewhere in the middle between avant-garde whatsit and old-school genre filmmaking: It's a monster movie shot like a science experiment. And it is unnervingly beautiful... [Bass builds tensout out of] the film's unsettling imagery, its troubling and reflective mood, its very refusal to do the things we expect. You've never seen anything like it, and when it's over you'll wish Bass had made more features.

  • ...[Bass' original, recently discovered ending is] an overripe flood of images, all the variables and components and suggestions of the previous 90-odd minutes of spare, concentrated ant warfare compressed and fermented into a redolent, orgiastic explosion. The consummated fever dream of dozens of untold lower budget and less inspired exploitation genre fare, it is a direct descendant of Roger Corman's ecstatic final solution to X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963).

  • Fields of color whip across the frame, deep yellows and greens and browns. The ground falls away into chthonic horrors of design and danger. Human bodies are made into hollow, ant-infested abominations.