Late Phases (dir. Adrián García Bogliano)
I have a certain respect for horror films which play their cards close to their chest. When the audience and one character know the full story, but it is not broadcast or over emphasized, the subtlety of the horror in the film can be its strength. LATE PHASES tries to be one of these types of films, but ultimately its avoidance of dealing with the horror head-on leads to too much ambiguity.
LATE PHASES is a werewolf film, but it never uses that word. The film begins with Ambrose (Nick Damici) moving to a remote, gated retirement community. Ambrose is blind, but he is the only one who knows the deadly attacks that occur monthly with the full moon are fishy. After he is attacked on his first night at his new townhouse he starts the wheels in motion to make next month’s attacks the last. Most of the film’s running time shows Ambrose either readying for the imminent attack or alienating his new neighbors.
Ambrose’s preparation for the werewolf’s return is calculated. It is almost as if he knows exactly what to prepare for and how to thwart it. But one of the film’s weaknesses is that it is never explained how or why he knows about werewolves. The entire retirement village, as well as the bumbling local police, has no idea that the attacks are anything other than a regular forest dweller in the nearby woods. No one in the community suspects anything is outside of the ordinary. So how is it that Ambrose can so easily identify the source of the attacks? It is clear that he has seen horrors in his life, but there needs to be more context for his history with cryptozoology for the film to make sense.
Another major issue I had with LATE PHASES was Damici’s portrayal of Ambrose. He plays Ambrose as an elderly, blind hybrid of Peter Falk and Andrew Dice Clay. The thick accent and smarmy demeanor seem to be an honest attempt at characterizing him as street-tested and rough, but are done to such an extreme that he seems more like a cartoon than a real person. Damici will be recognizable to genre fans as the long-time collaborator of Jim Mickle. He has shown himself to be a wonderful horror actor in many past films, which is why this misstep is horribly noticeable.
All this being said, the film knows its strengths. The werewolves themselves are pretty awesome. The creatures are revealed in moonlight, early in the film, with blood glistening on their fangs. And with so much time devoted to Ambrose’s preparations, it is really satisfying to see his plan play out in front of us.
Even with all of the blood and disemboweling, my favorite part of the film was Ambrose’s relationship with a local priest. Father Roger (Tom Noonan) understands Ambrose in ways that his new neighbors do not. They have several heart-to-heart talks—which have zero relation to the plot—that are really fun to watch. Noonan and Damici have a natural chemistry which translates well on film. ThankfullyFather Roger’s ease and comfort in his character offsets Ambrose’s over the top caricature in these scenes, which is a welcomed hiatus.
Plot holes and performance issues aside, the film is a fun little take on werewolves. And if you want to see retirees attacked by said werewolves, then you are in for a treat.