Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s Late Phases is set in a senior living community. It stars Nick Damici (Stake Land) as Ambrose, a war vet with an adult son who encourages him to relocate to a senior living community after the death of his wife. When Ambrose arrives, he doesn’t fit in with the other residents but they soon realize that he may be just the person to help put a stop to the string of attacks that have been going on in the area. Ambrose quickly discovers that the attacks are being staged by a creature that is neither human nor animal. He quickly begins to suspect that there may be a lycanthrope preying on the community because the elderly are less capable of defending themselves.
The film is directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Cold Sweat) and written by Eric Stolze (Under the Bed). Bogliano impressed me, once again, with his directorial prowess. He effectively sets an ominous tone and balances the film’s horror elements with a compelling storyline. Stolze’s script is his best yet. It shows measurable growth over his previous efforts and swiftly navigates the lycanthropic sub-genre.
Late Phases is a lot more than a werewolf film. It’s about a man who has been dealing with loss for most of his life. Ambrose is a veteran who lost his sight due to complications resulting from combat. He has lost his wife. He is in the process of losing his son and daughter in law as they move out of state. And early into the film, he loses his guide dog, with whom he has a very close relationship. It’s also about the Ambrose’s son coming to terms with is relationship with his distant father. Late Phases is a touching, sometimes sad, and always poignant journey.
As for the lycanthropic aspects, Wicked Horror contributing writer Nat Brehmer astutely pointed out, in a previous piece, that there are not a lot of truly great werewolf movies and that it’s hard to get the formula just right. When thinking about the greats, The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, and Dog Soldiers come to mind. But it’s hard to think of many other examples of werewolf cinema that really stuck the landing. Fortunately, Late Phases does a lot right. It features very well crafted werewolf effects and it captures the desperation felt by the afflicted. It does a great job of showcasing the duality that a lycanthrope feels between his or her sense of good and evil. It brings the creature’s humanity into play and makes some interesting points that are often ignored in films of this ilk. It also effectively fleshes the lycanthrope character out rather than just making it a killing machine. I was very impressed by that aspect of the picture.
Nick Damici was a smart choice to play the lead. He deftly walks the line between an aging veteran and a still vibrant ass-kicker, which is exactly what the role calls for. All the while, he makes the audience identify with him and see past his curmudgeonly tendencies. Damici plays the part with a depth that may not have been present with a lesser performer in his place.
In terms of supporting performances, the always great Tom Noonan is, well, great – as always. He was another brilliant casting choice. He always appears to be right at home in genre film and this is no exception. Noonan delivers an impressive performance as Father Roger and he helps to carry some of the earlier and slightly less eventful scenes in the picture. The film delves into why he became a priest and effectively explores some of the darkness that I would imagine exists in the minds of many men of the cloth. Ethan Embry is also excellent as Ambrose’s son Will. He perfectly embodies a man with a yuppie with an estranged relationship with his father. It’s clear that Will cares for his dad but feels powerless to help in light of his father being stubborn and set in his ways.
The picture pretty much sticks to classic werewolf mythology, which is fine. But I would liked to have seen a little bit more imagination go into the mythos. And I would have been happy to see the film expand upon what’s already there and maybe do something a little different than that which we have seen before. Other than that, I really don’t have any complaints about this film. It features some great performances, tells a compelling story, and will leave a lasting impression on its audience. Late Phases will be in select theaters and on VOD beginning November 21st. I would highly recommend checking it out.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Writer(s): Eric Stolze
Stars: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Tom Noonan
Release: Limited Theatrical and VOD November 21
Studio/ Production Co: Dark Sky
Length: 95 Minutes