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SXSW 2014 Review: Late Phases
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

Late Phases starring Nick Damici at SXSW

Late Phases
Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Screenwriter: Eric Stolze
Cast: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Erin Cummings, Rutanya Alda, Tina Louise, Karen Lynn Gorney, Dana Ashbrook, Tom Noonan
World Premiere | Dark Sky Films
Not Rated | 95 Minutes
Release Date: March 9, 2014 (SXSW)

Directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil), Late Phases is a low-budget werewolf flick in the vein of ’80s classics like Silver Bullet and The Howling with a Bubba Ho-Tep vibe.

Nick Damici (Stake Land) stars as Ambrose McKinley, a blind Vietnam veteran who is forced to move to a retirement community by his son (Ethan Embry, Cheap Thrills). The once-idyllic community of Crescent Bay has been plagued by a series of strange animal attacks. Something in the woods surrounding the community is killing off pets – and people go missing all the time.

On Ambrose’s first night there, his guide dog Shadow is killed by a large dog-like beast. Turns out Ambrose has moved into a retirement community for werewolves. It’s a great place to live – lots of amenities – but there are a lot of noise complaints (and dismemberments) during the full moon.

Thanks to Ambrose’s heightened sense of smell (you know, because he’s blind) and his hearing aid, he’s able to track the beast. He decides that he’s got a month until the next full moon, so he sets out to stock up on supplies and prepare for the next werewolf attack. He also starts taking the community shuttle to church, in an attempt to get to know his neighbors and uncover which one of them is, in fact, a goddamn werewolf.

Cue Father Roger (Tom Noonan, House of the Devil) and Lance Guest (Halloween II), who runs the shuttle service. Father Roger has a few heart-to-hearts with the grizzled old veteran, but Ambrose is beyond believing in God. He’s seen things that you wouldn’t believe (like Roy Batty in Blade Runner) and he’s got more pressing things on his mind – like werewolves.

Armed with silver bullets and Predator-style booby traps, Ambrose waits patiently for the next full moon so he can settle the score with Crescent Bay’s pack of cursed man-beasts.

Late Phases is a spirited werewolf movie, but it has trouble sustaining tension. When the film establishes that these attacks on take place during a full moon, it’s basically an indicator to the audience that not a whole lot is going to happen in-between. The film becomes less of a horror flick and more of a character study – which is perfectly fine considering Nick Damici delivers a pretty great performance as the abrasive blind war vet.

When the werewolves, finally get some screen time, the practical designs resemble Karg from Masters of the Universe than the massive muzzled beasts from The Howling and Dog Soldiers. These wolves are smaller, more upright, and their faces are flatter – more gremlin-like than wolf-life. The werewolves are designed by Robert Kurtzman, who has worked on films like Army of Darkness, Predator, and Tremors, and even if the film stalls here and there, there are still some great practical transformations.

All in all, Late Phases is a pretty decent werewolf flick. It provides a new spin on the subgenre and features some solid performances and practical effects. In a cinematic landscape where most lycanthropes are just ripped, shirtless dudes who transform into pixelated pound puppies (Twilight, True Blood), Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s is a return to the heyday of hairy, blood-splattered werewolf cinema.

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