Werewolf movies are always a gamble and I’m not sure why. Being a fan of the horror genre most likely means you’ve learned to love movies for being less than perfect. Fans of the genre (myself included) have learned to not just forgive, but fully embrace films for cheesy special effects, sub-par acting and storylines that make no sense. Sadly, it seems that the werewolf sub-genre not only features these character traits, but brings them to a whole new level of awfulness. For every Dog Soliders there is at least a couple dozen 5$ bin throw away titles. Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano is known for his crazy, psychological mind fuck of movies that are heavy on the sexual undertones. Here Comes the Devil, Cold Sweat and Penumbra are trippy as hell flicks and I do recommend them if you’re in the mood to drop acid, but you have other responsibilities like open heart surgery or nursing an orphaned new-born calf. Damn adult responsibilities… Last year when it was announced that Bogliano was directing a werewolf flick staring Nick Damici (Stakeland, Cold in July) and Ethan Embry (Cheap Thrills) I was damn excited for a mind fuck of a lycanthrope flick, but what we got was a character driven piece with absolutely zero sexual undertones. Considering most of the characters are AARP card holders this is a good thing.
Ambrose (Nick Damici) is a blind Vietnam vet who recently lost his wife ( He lost the gift of sight, it’s easy for him to misplace things…Blind Joke #1!) and is moving into a retirement community. Ambrose isn’t your run of the mill blind vietnam vet, think more Rutger Hauer in Blind Fury without the Kung-Fu and strong sex appeal (What?!? Like I’m the only one who finds Rutger Hauer attractive…). Shortly after settling into his new home a werewolf comes tearing ass into town and takes Ambrose’s beloved companion and seeing eye dog out for his final walk. Of course Ambrose is not a 100% sure what attack him (or if his shoes match…Blind joke #2!), but it doesn’t take long for him to piece it together and do what he does best: (no not slowly shuffle around and do his best Stevie Wonder…Blind joke #3!) Solidering up and going to war with some geriatric lycanthropes!
It has to be said that this movie is Damici’s beast. Fans of the genre will remember him best from his role as the ultimate vampire killing badass, Mister in Stakeland. A performance that I will forever hold up to all other performances that follow. Until now. Damici commits 100% to the role and absolutely appears that he does not have the gift of sight. He gave his all and he had me hook line and sinker. And this goes for the rest of the cast as well. Ethan Embry (who totally kicked ass in Cheap Thrills) nails the caring son that doesn’t know how to connect with an emotionally absent father who is more comfortable showing affection to services dog than his own son. The relationship between these two could have been a movie in itself and had me reaching for my phone to call my own father.
As mentioned before, Adrián García Bogliano is known for his really trippy films that oozes with perverse sexuality and normally involve horrific things happening to normal people. Late Phases is a nice change of pace. I was thrown at the straightforward approach Bogliano took here, but he handled it well and trusted in his lead to carry the film. The flick comes right out of the gate swinging. We don’t have to wait long to get some werewolf action and Bogliano gives us just what we want. BUT (there’s always a but) after that initial attack scene we ride a 45 minutes without much us. This of course would normally be a negative if it wasn’t for strong performances by the cast. Bogliano never once falls into the standard horror tropes and lets the characters do the… well….talking…
I will say the slow down in action comes with a big pay off. Ambrose has only ever been good at being a solider and dammit that’s how he plans on going out. The ending is full on war. If war was waged between an elderly veteran and a clan of werewolves. The special effects are handled by Robert Kurtzman and they are all top-notch. I dug the design of the werewolves and Late Phases features the best werewolf transformation scene since American Werewolf in London. Think less as a man turning into a werewolf, but more like a man who was born with a 6 ft werewolf twin inside him and it finally tears its way out. And Bogliano shows us every excruciating detail.
Late Phases is the best damn werewolf flick I’ve seen in years. Mostly, because Nick Damici gives the best performance of his career and does the heavy lifting. Top this off with a hell of a supporting cast, stellar special effects and Tom Noonan popping up as the wise, but suspicious priest and you got yourself a kickass film. Hey look at that I was able to get through this review with only offending the blind three times. Must be getting soft in my old age.
Late Phases is available on VOD and iTunes now!