Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Adrián García Bogliano
Cast: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest
Werewolf films have made a triumphant return to celluloid this year. Wolfcop, Wolves and President Wolfman were all entertaining pictures worthy of more than one single viewing. Well, you can add Adrián García Bogliano’s latest to that list as well. Late Phases is downright wicked, and may actually be the very best of the bunch. Hell, there’s a case to be made in declaring it the best picture Bogliano has put together to date.
We’re immediately introduced to Ambrose McKinley, a blind Vietnam veteran who moves to a secluded neighborhood designed to cater to the elderly after his wife passes away. Ambrose isn’t overjoyed with the move, but then again, he’s got a dark past, and he isn’t all too overjoyed with any element of his life. It’s been a long, hard, tiring journey. Unfortunately for him, the tribulations aren’t a thing of the past just yet. The first night in “Crescent Bay” results in a mangled neighbor, a dead dog and a damn close call for Ambrose himself. Despite his lack of sight, Ambrose knows that whatever killed his neighbor, and his dog Shadow, wasn’t human, and it sure as hell wasn’t any animal he’s ever encountered. A mission to uncover the truth ensues, as Ambrose unearths plenty of interesting facts about the residents of Crescent Bay, all the while preparing for the showdown he feels will inevitably unfold during the forthcoming full moon.
There’s no need to jump into specifics of the final act. This is a werewolf flick from dedicated genre contributor Adrián García Bogliano, you know damn well that showdown between man and monster is on the way. To ruin the fun of it all feels offensive. Rather, it’s probably best to focus on the human elements of this story, which take center stage over the creature itself.
Bogliano’s first English-language feature is a winner. I’ve seen it criticized by a few outlets (some monkey over at http://www.rogerebert.com had the audacity to indicate the film is a comedy, to which I ask, what the hell movie did you watch?! This is quite far from a comedic piece), but the general voice seems to have gotten it right: Late Phases is a very entertaining film with a lot of passion and a lot of effort behind it. Nick Damici’s portrayal of Ambrose is brilliant. Damici has already established himself as a legitimate talent (if you havent yet, tune in to such works as Mulberry Street, We Are What We Are and Stake Land, all of which offer Nick a fine platform to flex his thespian muscles), but this character in specific, may be his most successful turn as an actor. It’s certainly the most interesting individual he’s had the chance to play thus far. And Damici gets fine support in the form of a number of recognizable performers. Ethan Embry (Cheap Thrills, Incident on and Off a Mountain Road) is featured as Will, Ambrose’s son, Lance Guest (Halloween II, The Last Starfighter) impresses as the suspicious Griffin, Tom Noonan (The House of the Devil, The Astronaut’s Wife) plays it straight as Father Roger and Larry Fessenden (I Sell the Dead, Jug Face) has a fine bit-role as well. To top it off, we also get quick turns from Karen Lynn Gorney (Saturday Night Fever), Tina Louise (Gilligan’s Island), Rutanya Alda (When a Stranger Calls) and Caitlin O’Heaney (He Knows You’re Alone). It’s a stellar cast working with a stellar script from one of today’s finest indie filmmakers. It’s also designed to appeal to the hardcore horror hound in all of us.
Robert Kurtzman is onboard to handle the effects, and they’re quite interesting. If you’re a practical over digital kind of viewer, this one will work for you, as there isn’t much in the way of computer generated imagery. And though the creature suit looks a little questionable at times, the transformation shots are quite gnarly, and there’s something quite appealing about the female werewolf design (I’m still trying to avoid spoilers here!). It’s a look you may not be accustomed to, but may very well appreciate quite a bit.
Late Phases was a late 2014 view for me, but it’s no doubt one of my favorite offerings to hit the market this year. The character-first approach makes for a killer viewing (I don’t think I can express this enough) experience that hearkens back to movies like An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. Ambrose is a magnificent character, and his plight is one to garner a small degree of awe. It isn’t easy for a film to manage that impact, which says quite a bit about Bogliano’s new one. Late Phases is a kick ass werewolf movie that you need to check out. Sooner rather than later.