Director – Adrián García Bogliano
Cast – Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise, Rutanya Alda, Caitlin O’Heaney, Erin Cummings, Tom Noonan, Larry Fessenden, Al Sapienza
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Werewolf films are still kicking these days, but not so much on the American side. Last year’s Game of Werewolves and 2014’s Wer, both Spanish flicks, were enjoyable efforts that delivered good horror. Then, along came the Nick Dimici-starring dramatic horror film Late Phases to blow them both out of the water. This is the simplest and rawest of the three films, where the end-result is a heavy blow of solid horror complimented with raw emotion.
Ambrose, a blind Vietnam veteran, moves into a retirement village where the elderly go to die. Little does he know, the residents of this village are not dying from natural causes, but from vicious werewolf attacks. With a month to spare until the next full moon, Ambrose works around his disabilities so he can give the werewolves a fight they will not expect.
This story comes from Eric Stolze, the writer behind the awesome Under The Bed, and I was pleased with what he provided. The story begins with Ambrose getting dropped off at the village by his son Will. Will and Ambrose don’t have much of a relationship aside from the fact that they are father and son, and that is on Ambrose. In a sense you feel for the guy and can’t really fault him. He served in a wildly umpopular war, and has since lost his vision. It is obvious that Ambrose is far from a weak individual, and he tries extra hard to not let his disability make him vulnerable – even though it does. His first night at the home proves to be an eventful one when his neighbor is brutally attacked by a werewolf. Of course, Ambrose does not know it was a werewolf because he cannot see. His sense of smell has heightened over the years, and he knows whatever it was…it was big, mean, and not human. He eventually learns that his neighbor was not the only victim that night, and that the community has been plagued with mysterious, brutal deaths once a month – all coinciding with a full moon. It seems silly, but Ambrose is not taking any chances.
The rest of the film follows Ambrose as he prepares for next month’s impending murders. Despite his lack of vision he remains a solid weapons expert and will use his proficiency, along with custom-crafted silver bullets, to ensure he does not go down without a fight. Yes, there is a fight. After a second act that includes much character development and a little humor, the full moon returns and the werewolf is out on the loose. It is about the 65 minute mark that the horror begins to kick into high gear, with a sweet transformation scene shortly after this. There are lots of deaths and plenty of gore for the viewer to enjoy, and the final fight between Ambrose and the beast is one you definitely need to see. While this is a devout horror film there is a supporting touch of drama as well. Stolze uses the end of the second act to play on the relationship between Ambrose and his son. Ever since his wife’s death Ambrose hasn’t quite been himself, although he wasn’t much of a “loving” father before that either. Keep in mind he was never a bad man. He loved his child and provided everything he needed, except emotional support. Don’t think that the film gets soft on you, because the filmmakers did a damn good job of keeping this a horror film.
Spanish director Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil, Penumbra) makes his English-language debut here and rides in with style. Once you view this piece will you realize that it employed very simple filmmaking yet Bogliano made the most of what little they had. The sets and locations are very basic, so if you are looking for a visually appealing piece you won’t find it here. However, the film makes up for that with everything else. To start, it stars horror vet Nick Damici (Stake Land, We Are What We Are, Mulberry St.) and he is hands down one of the best actors in the genre. His performance carries the film as he expertly portrays the Walt Kowalski-esque hardened war veteran just trying to pass the time until he passes on. For not being blind, Damici is a pretty damn good blind man here. He also portrays a man much older than he really is. His performance is only equaled in awesomeness by the horror. Werewolf films these days tend to involve a lot of CGI, so I was more than surprised, and impressed, at the live-action carnage that occurred here. We see werewolves tear people apart and leave their guts hanging out, all while wearing prosthetic suits that are a bit silly but downright awesome at the same time (if you’re into that kind of cheese). Keep in mind that the people being torn apart here are senior citizens, so their deaths feel a bit taboo…in a good way. It seems Bogliano’s direction is getting better and better, and I hope to see more films like Late Phases from him in the future.
Overall, Late Phases is an awesome werewolf flick and one of the best horror films of 2014. It has numerous elements for the viewer to enjoy, from Nick Damici’s badassery to gory werewolf action, so this is one film you cannot miss.