LATE PHASES played Fantasia Festival this weekend, and the reviews are rolling in!
From Bloody Disgusting:
For his English-language debut Late Phases, Spanish director Adrián García Bogliano has done something special. He’s crafted a werewolf shocker that reads more like a revenge/vigilante flick than a horror film. All of the traditional werewolf elements are there – silver bullets, full moons, etc. – but at its core its really the tale of a tired Vietnam vet who was blinded in combat and went dark to the world, including to his family. In his recent films (Here Comes the Devil, Penumbra, Cold Sweat), Bogliano focused a lot on tricks and set pieces, rather than characters and emotion. With Late Phases, it’s all about heart. A torn up heart thrown against a wall spraying blood everywhere, but still, heart.
Nick Damici (Stake Land) stars as Ambrose McKinley, the aging veteran I mentioned earlier. He moves into the quaint retirement community of Crescent Bay, a secluded locale in upstate New York nestled in the bosom of a thick forest. The residents don’t take too kindly to Ambrose’s biting behavior, especially when he pulls a gun on the Stepford Wives-like welcoming committee. Soon Ambrose learns that aggressively friendly old bags are the least of his worries. Crescent Bay has been rocked lately by a series of grisly murders the cops are deeming “animal attacks.” After Ambrose experiences one of these “animal attacks” firsthand, he decides to get proactive on their hairy asses.
He figures the wolves will return during the next full moon in a month, so Ambrose spends the time preparing, training, and digging up dirt on the locals to try to figure out who’s the werewolf. Rather than carry a cane like a regular blind person, he carries a shovel around, which sets his neighbors on edge. There’s a shot of him training with it like a bo staff that gave me goosebumps. You can’t help but root for this blind codger.
Interspersed in this extended training montage are intimate moments between Ambrose and his son Will, played by Ethan Embry (Cheap Thrills). The shared history of pain and regret between them make up most of the story’s heart and adds incredible weight to the final showdown. Bogliano gives their tense aging father and son relationship plenty of screen time so that we actually care about them, something horror films don’t pay much attention to nowadays. It gives Ambrose’s rumble with the werewolves real stakes.
Late Phases is certain to satisfy fans of the classic creature features of the ’80s who crave a practical werewolf transformation. The crack special effects and makeup team (headed by From Dusk Till Dawn‘s Robert Kurtzman) put together some wonderfully gory gross-out shape-shifting moments. Sweeping CGI aside, they went practical with werewolf suits and they’re huge and AWESOME. Their faces look more like Critters than wolves, but that’s part of their charm.
As Ambrose, Nick Damici gives a genuinely powerful performance. He plays it kinda like Eastwood in Gran Torino, but with more hard-boiled dialogue to spit out in a thick “fuhgeddaboutit” accent. Embry does a great job acting alongside him as the concerned son wounded by his father’s detached attitude. Their scenes together are terrific and deliver the type of credible family tension that a lot of folks can relate to.
The script penned by Eric Stolze (Under the Bed) offers up a river of clever scenarios and interpersonal moments. The balance between horror, vigilante, and familial issues is handled very well. Bogliano infuses Stolze’s script with the dark and flashy style he’s become known for while also setting an edgy mood early on. The highlight of the film is, of course, the final showdown between Ambrose and the wolves. It plays out in a brutal fashion. It’s not a clean fight, oh no, it’s a real slobberknocker highlighted with loads of “oh shit!” moments as it’s revealed what Ambrose spent a month working on. It’s SO badass.
Late Phases is a tale of hardcore werewolf violence, a tangible father/son relationship, redemption, and a whole lotta heart. It’s funny, brash, and exciting, but knows when to pull back and let the emotion sink in. Simply put, it’s a masterpiece of the werewolf genre because of what it accomplishes on top of the scares, which is deliver a truly emotional, heartfelt story of a father and son. I don’t mean to make it sound all mushy though – Late Phases delivers solid horror thrills and amazing wolf transformations that are bloody, flesh-tearing wonders of practical effects.
What I’m trying to say is do not miss Late Phases or your eyeballs will never forgive you.
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From The Hollywood Reporter:
Nick Damici is the Charles Bronson of blind, senior-citizen werewolf hunters. In Late Phases, he brusquely carries the day as a Vietnam Vet whose people skills don’t quite match his ability to intuit the supernatural cause of violent attacks in a New York state retirement community. Horror buffs will be divided on the film’s stylized (but likably old-school) creature design, but most will appreciate the picture’s slow-build treatment of its hero’s quest to prepare for the beast’s next full-moon attack. Though not sufficiently jolt-packed to have broad theatrical appeal, it should fare better on video.
Damici plays Ambrose, a widower being moved into this forlorn old-folks subdivision by son Will (Ethan Embry). (Though only in his mid-fifties, some subtle makeup helps Damici fit the role — at least until a shirtless shot late in the film reveals the torso of a younger man.) Independent but very attached to his seeing-eye dog Shadow, he begins to settle in after Will leaves. But on his first night, Shadow and the woman next door are both slain by a man-sized beast that tears through walls and flesh with equal ease.
Bogliano shows us the creature from the start, a rejection of monster movie convention that makes sense once we understand that almost the whole film will take place in the month-long wait before it appears again. After hearing someone say that the attack coincided with a full moon, Ambrose is surprisingly confident he’s dealing with a werewolf. Having gotten a good whiff of the beast and heard its tortured breathing, he sets out to see which of his neighbors bears a resemblance. Meanwhile, he commits the layout of his home to memory, practices some old combat moves, and invests in silver bullets for guns his neighbors think a blind man shouldn’t own.
In his first English-language outing, Spaniard Adrian Garcia Bogliano has some trouble developing a sense of this little community as a real place. The trio of old biddies who gossip about Ambrose aren’t subtle enough to be credible; the same goes for cops who shrug at the epidemic of violence on their beat. But casting Tom Noonan as the local priest was smart: As Ambrose’s prime suspect, he both gives the air of a man with creepy secrets and projects real interest in his new parishioner’s loneliness. Interactions between the two give just a bit of depth to the film’s theme of a society that has little time to care for its elders.
But back to werewolves. After a genuinely startling bit of human violence, the lycanthrope reappears in a transformation sequence that is considerably cheesier than many cinematic man-to-beast scenes. The end product looks a bit like a Gremlin crossed with the Donnie Darko rabbit, and its battle with our well-prepared hero isn’t as thrilling as it might have been. Damici more than holds the screen, too gruffly determined to be upstaged by a monster, and the script slips a clever trick or two up his sleeve. Less ambitious but more satisfyingly resolved than Bogliano’s last effort, Here Comes the Devil, Late Phases is a reminder of how much monster movies rely on what happens when the monster’s not on screen.
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