Late Phases (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by Adrián García Bogliano, starring Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise, and Tom Noonan.
The feeling that I had after watching Late Phases was akin to the guilt that I carried after breaking up with a very sweet girl that I really wanted to like but ultimately didn’t have enough in common with. While Adrián García Bogliano’s English language debut eschews retreading the same tired werewolf movie clichés, in traveling so far off the beaten path Late Phases ends up in a cinematic no man’s land.
Late Phases tells the tale of an old and blind curmudgeon of a war veteran named Ambrose (Nick Dimici) as he moves into a gated retirement community. Ambrose’s abrasiveness is on full display as he refuses to bond with his son Will (Ethan Embry) and immediately destroys any chance of fitting into the community by brandishing a gun at the neighbourhood welcoming committee. Ambrose’s only hints of compassion are directed at his seeing eye dog Shadow. On his first night in his new home, a mysterious creature attacks Ambrose and kills Shadow. Following the attack Ambrose begins piecing together clues that lead him to believe that the community is under siege by a werewolf and that it will once again unleash its fury under the light of the next full moon.
After viewing hundreds of horror movies that depict supernatural forces savagely murdering scantily clad twenty-somethings, I am always thrilled to experience horror stories from a new perspective. The film does a solid job of building up Ambrose’s moonlight showdown with the wolf, making him feel like an old gunslinger preparing for a final duel at high noon. Late Phases is a revenge movie first and a horror movie second and while it doesn’t succeed at fully realizing either of those genres elements, it’s gratifying to see a director attempt to push boundaries and defy expectations. Late Phases takes another swing for the fences with its climactic human/werewolf transformation scene. Even though the werewolves themselves have a bargain bin aesthetic (more on that in a moment), the transformation process from human to wolf did not disappoint. The special effects team decided to use practical effects for the transformation scene and it absolutely pays off. Seeing the monster tear itself out of its human form was thrilling, terrifying and as gory as anything you will find in a blockbuster film.
At its heart, Late Phases is a character study and by pushing its horror elements out into the periphery of the film an intense spotlight is focused on the poor execution of the story. Nick Dimici is the lynch pin that holds the movie together and without him the smattering of uneven performances and choppy dialogue would make this movie unwatchable. Even with Nick Dimici’s engaging performance, the character arc that Ambrose goes through and the fate of the relationship between him and his son feels lazy and contrived and does not at all feel satisfying upon its conclusion. The were-wolf costumes are laughable and sadly turn the onscreen presence of the creature into camp, which dramatically deflates the serious tone that Late Phases worked so hard to establish. A less is more approach of keeping the creature in the shadows and only revealing shots of teeth and claws tearing away at hapless victims would have helped the film maintain intensity.
I can’t help but wonder, if this film had been a ninety-minute drama with a shocking appearance by a werewolf, would it be held to a different standard than a horror movie with a lot of drama? Regardless of how the film categorizes itself, Late Phases does not do a sufficient job of being shocking, scary or emotionally compelling and finds itself in an awkward creative middle ground. Late Phases clumsy execution overshadows its ambition and the experience stands out as a better concept than a film. Despite all the flaws, I am glad that a movie like Late Phases can exist and I hope that its presence in the genre can inspire other filmmakers to expand their creative palettes
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