Werewolves made their way to the silver screen with an unforgettable performance by arguably one of the greatest character actors of his time, Lon Chaney Jr., in the classic film The Wolf Man. Since its release in 1941, countless imitations and re-imaginings have failed to capture what made that film in particular so mesmerizing the first time we saw it. Whether it is the absolute terror we felt watching the wolf man stalk his victims or it was our fears of what was outside, just beyond sight, lurking in the darkness. I for one can’t really say what element of that film got to me the most; perhaps it was a combination of all of them. This is also why so many werewolf films come up short when compared to the original. Of course some exceptions can and have been made.
Landis’ An American Werewolf in London is an incredibly beautiful film with a simple story and characters you can invest in, as well as some of the best practical effects ever put on film. However, even genre heavyweights can churn out a truly awful experience such as Wes Craven’s Cursed. While it isn’t the worst of the bunch, it has a multitude of issues with it. It still remains a guilty pleasure of mine in sort of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type of way, but it’s still not a great film by any stretch of the imagination.
Werewolves had nearly gone the way of zombies over the past few years, dangerously close to becoming a pop culture fad and losing the frightening edge they once held. With films like Twilight and Warm Bodies taming our precious movie monsters, one could almost sense that the end was near. For zombies, films like The Ford Brothers The Dead give a new hope, but where is our werewolf salvation? I was losing hope this decade would be full of teen-love story/horror crossovers, which was enough to make me want to burn all Hot Topic stores to the ground. Then, something amazing happened — I saw the trailer for Adrián García Bogliano’s Late Phases and suddenly, I had hope.
Every article I read made me grin like an adolescent boy, each new thing I learned was like a Christmas present. The time finally came to watch it. Would I be as pleased as I expected or would it just be another imitation? The answer is this, Late Phases is truly one of the best werewolf films ever made. Period. End of discussion.
Writer Eric Stolze has created some of the best characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. Each relationship has such a dynamic range, each character also seems to be hiding something. Behind the facade of the quiet retirement community are lies, good Christians with elitist attitudes, and murder. When Ambrose (Nick Damici) is introduced to the community, we aren’t greeted with any warm feelings of hope or security. Dread is sensed from the very first frame, which is similar to the feelings I get when the Creeds arrive to their new home in Pet Semetary.
Nick Damici’s performance of the blind, retired soldier, Ambrose, is as phenomenal as it gets. He was able to develop a tough exterior and an exceedingly dry sense of humor, while struggling with the loss of a close friend and a drifting relationship with his own son. All of this was done while also prepping to go to war with a werewolf.
I could write about this film forever. Instead, I’m just going to tell you that you need to see it. I give this film 4.5 silver bullets out of 5.
I’m pretty sure all horror fans are constantly on the hunt for a werewolf flick as good as An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. Just like every other sub-genre, there are tons of entries and while most are duds, there are still some that are worthy of praise. Along with Dog Soldiers, Ginger Snaps, and Silver Bullet, I can now add Adrián García Bogliano’s Late Phases to the list as one of my all time favorite wolf-man films!
Ambrose is a blind Vietnam war veteran who is moving into a retirement community, after the recent loss of his wife. He is welcomed by the Stepford wife type of women of the community, but he knows better and his hardened exterior doesn’t fit well with the rest of the bunch. This quaint gated community isn’t as secure as it seems, however and it only takes one night for Ambrose to realize that there is something very wrong happening here. The rest of the community doesn’t seem to see it, but Ambrose is well aware that he must prepare for one final war, as in one month, he will face the next visit from the community’s resident werewolf.
Everything about this movie is brilliant. The entire cast did an amazing job, but I must say, Nick Damici’s performance could not be outdone. He played the role of the retired soldier with a dry sense of humor and hard time expressing his feelings wonderfully. Ethan Embry, playing the role of Will, Ambrose’s son, was also outstanding. I loved watching the relationship between develop, creating the perfect companion storyline to the preparation of becoming a soldier against werewolves.
The acting was top-notch and there was fantastic character development, but the best part of it all is the practical special effects. Robert Kurtzman and his team at the Mad FX Lab have managed to create some of the best werewolf make-up and prosthetics to date, and the transformation scenes throughout Late Phases rival every other were- movie the genre has seen. From the flesh ripping to the shotgun blown away heads, everything looks marvelous.
This movie needs to be seen by everyone and it is going to be a long time before it is topped… if ever. Dark Sky Films official releases Late Phases on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital on Tuesday, March 10th, so be sure to pick up a copy.
I give this one 4.5 silver shotgun shells out of 5.