Exclusive Review: LATE PHASES (2014){0}

Whenever it seems like the werewolf movie has been completely forgotten, we get a nice reminder that this immortal legend of horror cinema will always have its fair share of supporters. It was way back in 1981 when The Howling, Wolfen, and An American Werewolf in London hit the screens, and while there was a semi-resurgence with Ginger Snaps (2000), Dog Soldiers (2002), and (to a degree) The Wolfman (2010), we don’t seem to get half-decent lycanthropic cinema all that frequently.

“Decent” seems a good way to describe Late Phases, the new werewolf feature from the admirably eclectic director Adrian Bogliano (Penumbra, Cold Sweat and Here Comes the Devil) are among his most recent films), because the flick has too many good intentions and legitimately strong assets to allow its narrative missteps to ruin the whole package. Put more simply: Late Phases has a more than a few “slow spots” and it has trouble sustaining the tension that any horror film needs – but it also features some great performances, a worthwhile sense of strange humanity, and, ultimately, a handful of truly cool werewolf sequences.

Late Phases is about an elderly blind man (Nick Damici) who finds himself relocated to a “retirement community” that has been recently besieged by animal attacks. Most of grouchy old Ambrose’s neighbors are weird, ancient ladies who are part of a church group led by an odd preacher (Tom Noonan) and his lapdog assistant (Lance Guest). Clearly something devious is afoot at this bland and antiseptic “retirement” community – and once Ambrose’s neighbour is killed in a harrowingly vicious fashion, the man knows what’s up. He knows what’s coming during the next full moon, and he has a full month to get prepared for battle.

This is sort of where Late Phases hits a rough patch. By telling the audience we have to wait a full month, you’re promising them very little in the actual horror department. Mr. Damici’s performance is simply excellent, as are those by Noonan, Guest, and Ethan Embry (as Ambrose’s kind-hearted son), and since Late Phases seems to be half horror story and half character study, it’s fine if we slow down for a while and get embroiled in our strange hero’s search for clues.

The screenplay (by Eric Stolze, who also wrote Steven Miller’s Under the Bed) works best when Ambrose is getting ornery with various neighbours, congregation members, and a weirdly charming gunsmith – but this is more of a bittersweet dramatic piece about an ageing father and his estranged son (with some pretty solid werewolf sequences that act more as bookends) than a non-stop monster chomp-fest. And hey, bonus points for some damn fine Greg Kurtzman creature design and a supporting cast that, if you’re old enough, you simply have to see to believe. (One hint: keep an eye on those old ladies!)


Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg)

LATE PHASES is now available in the UK (as Night of the Wolf: Late Phases) on DVD and VOD

Night of the Wolf Late Phases DVD