|Late Phases Poster courtesy of Shocktillyoudrop.com
Adrian Garcia Bogliano
About a month ago we had a small dinner party for a few friends. My buddy Jack made some awesome chicken fried chicken and mashed potatoes from scratch. It was a nice way to spend a Saturday night with some good friends, good food and good beer. Afterwards we sat down to decide collectively on a movie. After scrolling through Netflix and Amazon for what seemed like an hour, we had finally decided on Late Phases, which was streaming on Amazon. I had heard generally positive things about this DTV werewolf flick through various media sites like Instagram and Facebook, and suggested that we give it a try. Since none of us had seen it, it was unanimous. Besides, there just aren't enough good werewolf movies out there.
Ambrose (Nick Damici) is a blind and grumpy old war veteran who moves into a new retirement community. When he discovers that residents are dying off under suspicious circumstances, he starts to believe that the deaths may be attributed to something far more sinister than anyone could have imagined.
Late Phases was a surprise in the sense that it was better than I was expecting it to be, and that it was a completely different type of horror film than what we were all expecting. A little bit on the slow side, it generates enough tension from it's slow-burn approach to keep you invested. Unconventional would the the word I would choose in describing this little gem of a horror film. So much about this film in terms of it's tone, genre and production plays out so much differently than what you expect going in that I personally feel it was a breath of fresh air in the horror genre.
But the real selling point in Late Phases is it's great cast, led by the great Nick Damici. I was shocked to discover that this is the same guy who wrote and starred in Stakeland, and who also wrote Cold in July and We Are What We Are, as well as co-starring in those films. As the main character front and center, Damici shines in the leading role as a blind widowed war veteran who moves into a retirement community with his trusty dog. Obviously playing a character older than his actual age, you'd never guess it. Damici does a helluva job and sells the shit out of it.
The rest of the cast is pretty stellar all around, with the biggest surprise for me being the discovery that the weird guy was none other than Lance Guest (Halloween II, The Last Starfighter, Jaws: The Revenge). There was something oddly familiar about this guy's eyes, and the way he walked. I know I had seen it before recently, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Then it just hit me, he was Alex Rogan from The Last Starfighter, which is of course a childhood favorite of mine. But most recently, I had seen him in Halloween II (1981) when I revisited it on Bluray around Halloween last year. While he looks significantly older, heavier and balder, there was something about his eyes and his gate. I had no idea the guy was still acting!
What I liked about this, other than it's impressive ensemble cast, was that it took a much more different approach to the horror genre. It takes it's time setting things up, building up to a satisfying climax. At times clever and funny, and others terrifying and sad, it's sharp script is only equally matched by director Adrian Garcia Bogliano's impressive visuals and camerawork. Much like discovering Lance Guest in the ensemble cast, and Nick Damici in the lead, I was surprised to find out that Bogliano was also responsible for two recent horror discovers of mine, having also directed the better than I expected Cold Sweat, and the moody, yet somewhat disappointing Here Comes The Devil. I noticed immediately that the film aesthetically looked great, and tonally hit all the right marks, but I never would have guessed it was the same guy responsible for these films. Go figure.
Another addition to the seemingly endless surprises in Late Phases was Robert Kirkman on special effects make-up duties. Now, this was a big discussion in our group after the film was over. While most, including myself liked the werewolf design and practical effects approach, others felt they looked too hokey. I can certainly see that, but as a guy who loves practical effects work, I loved seeing the werewolves in practical form, and not a CGI mess. I mean, in this day of tacky low-budget CGI overload, it could easily have been the cheaper way to do it, yet they chose to go the practical effects route, and I applaud them for it. I personally loved their look. I loved that they were organic. I loved that they were real human beings inside those suits and I loved that were somewhat of a throwback to werewolf movies from about 20 years ago.
While we're on the topic of effects, I've got to give mad props to Kurtzman and his team. While you don't see a lot of it until the final act, when it does come on screen, it's pretty fantastic. Again, lots of practical effects work, blood and gore, with very minimal CGI touch-ups. The way it should be.
Late Phases isn't going to blow you away or anything, but as a well made and unique take on the werewolf genre, it's a solid effort.