Late Phases (Adrian Garcia Bogliano, 95m) — One of the best films I saw in a once again very strong Midnight section was this straightforward-but-brilliant werewolf movie. As with Xan Cassavettes’ Kiss Of The Damned from last year, I am most attracted to genre purists who work within the three-chord structure of their respective genre and through rigorous personal exploration of the core foundations of the code, completely reinvent the genre.
Late Phases starts deceptively simple, with a very tart TV-movie-of-the-week set-up and pacing but, by the middle of the second act, gets torn to bits like the graphic transformation scene in which we watch a trusted deacon in the church pull off his nose and ears as hair pokes through his chest cavity. Or the bizarre scene on a church bench when the head priest (Tom Noonan) and our war hero Ambrose (Nick Damichi) talk about the evil that men do while describing the act of killing innocent children.
The transformation from human to monster is ripe for so much fertile metaphorical relationships; the most obvious one here is the transformation from youth to old age heightened by the fact that the film is set in an old age retirement community. I also particularly liked the father/son relationship, which opened up the idea that as sons, we all become our fathers, as much as we fight the urge; at times, we all feel that matted, nasty smelling hair poking out, or at least clawing to get out. Likewise, we are willing to shoot ourselves in the foot in order to kill that evil beast. Hats off to low-budget horror masterminds Larry Fessenden and Brent Kunkle at Glass Eye Pix, who manage to make creatures and effects feel more real than any mega-budget CGI extravaganza on I am sure what is a nano-percentage of the typical Hollywood budget. This is one film that I hope gets into every megaplex. It’s elevated the werewolf film to a whole other level.