Director : Adrián García Bogliano
Starring : Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest. USA/Spain. 1h 35m
I had been looking for this film for some time as i made it a personal mission to watch every werewolf movie when I was a creepy deathrock teenager and preferred them over vampires any day. Werewolf Order!!!
It’s an unusual set up to a lot of other horror movies with wild beasts involved, and the strange concoction of seasoned cast seems to side step the normal for a set of very unusual and slightly surreal characters, at times I wondered if this was a metaphor for something more profound?
A cantankerous veteran Ambrose (Damici) moves into a quiet and peaceful retirement home in a gated community called Crescent Bay, after the loss of his wife, the aging, blind vet and his dog are settled in by Will (Embry), Ambrose’s adoring son but it’s clear their relationship has been through the the wars there’s respect but something gloomy from the past under the surface. Ambrose’s exceptional smell and hearing leads him to his adorable neighbour who he befriends, but later on that night she’s brutalised by a hairy beast, Ambrose attempts to save her but he and his dog are injured in this unexpected animal attack. Sadly the beloved dog dies from his injuries but Ambrose goes into survival mode and begins a personal hunt for the beast.
Strangely the town has already experienced a number of attacks, all occuring the full moon, the local law enforcement just blame it on the community being so close to the woods, and with the population being all that much closer to god, basically no one cares. They are more concerned about Ambrose, who’s already rubbed his neighbors up the wrong way, after insulting a few and turning off the iron lung of another and frightening some of the old dear by using his shovel as a walking stick, personally I think the man has style.
Using his acute senses, Ambrose slowly starts to piece together who the beast might be from subtle signs from the night of the attack. Things really open up once he joins a church group lead by Father Roger (Noonan) and his adoring assistant Griffin (Guest) and as he meets more people at this weekly social, but the clock is ever ticking until the next full moon, when he has to be ready to strike and he has to be prepared for anything.
Ambrose: What is wrong with him?
Gloria B.: He is in an iron lung.
Ambrose: Poor fucking bastard.
The setting is so warm and picturesque is very different from a lot of modern horrors, and it’s hard to believe that after sun down there’s such beastly things going on but that seems to be the charm of Late Phases, nothing is quite what it seems, it’s like a wolf version of Stepford Wives (1975). For me Ambrose is a true champ, immediately his no nonsense and tough bastard exterior really upsets a lot of the town, the only person who really warms to him is Father Roger, who can see there is a champ in there somewhere and their frequent conversations are some of best non bloodied scenes in the film, Noonan is no strange to werewolf movies but this is a long way off from Wolfen (1981) but his awkward gait and calm nature carries on.
For the low budget and after seeing the first dimly lit werewolf scene I wasn’t expect such a great transformation scene in the later acts of the movie but budget in mind it’s actually really well done, I had to do some research as this is a long lived hobby of mine. Director Bogliano insisted on it being done in one long shot so a technologically new camera rig that would be programmed to shoot from multiple angles as if it were a single shot. However, an unforeseen problem was that, since no one had ever used one before, it took two full days to program the rig properly obviously this was a total headache for the entire crew but it pays off with a more believable scene with no CGI. Although the final look of the wolves is very odd, they kinda have a fox/bat like look to their little squashed faces but overall it’s the crazy damage they can do which makes them terrifying.
Overall Late Phases was a different but very welcomed addition to the world of werewolf movies, it’s humane approach and heartfilled narrative seems to tell more than just a story of loving revenge of a beloved pet, it opens up ideas of one man fighting for what is right and making amends before it’s too late. Ambrose is a wicked and grumpy old fuck but a true hero and with a the sombre ending to a wonderful bloody showdown as it’s one blind old man vs many beasts there’s a chance of a sequel and this would be very welcomed as it has a beautiful shining example of well made independent horror to follow in the footsteps of.
L: A-Z of Werewolf Movies