‘Late Phases’ Review, Finally A Good Werewolf Film
Werewolf films today, much like shark films, are plagued by either crappy CGI, bad story, bad acting, or a combination of all three. Thankfully, Late Phases manages to avoid all three of these pitfalls and is one of the few, 21st century werewolf films that is actually good (for another good modern werewolf film, consider checking out Wer).
Genre fans will be pleased that all ‘werewolf’ film elements are in this movie, but Late Phases is more than just your typical werewolf flick, it also has added emotion and gets you to care about our main character, who btw, does an excellent job in this film portraying a Vietnam vet who went blind during his final tour.
Nick Damici (who also had a part in the rave reviewed vampire film – Stake Land) plays Ambrose McKinley, a blunt and tired vet who is moving into the small retirement town secluded and surrounded by woods. Soon after arriving to the quite community, Ambrose is attacked by a ‘wolf’ and learns that this is not the first animal attack to happen in the community, grisly murders happen every month, convincing Ambrose that he needs to take drastic action against the menace(s).
He quickly (too quickly in my opinion) comes to the conclusion that what attacked him was a werewolf and he has only until the next full moon to train and get what he needs to put down the ravenous beasts. Already on thin ice with his neighbors thanks to his blunt attitude, he decides to replace his old cane with a shovel that he trains with and sharpens into a close combat weapon, in turn setting his neighbors off even more.
While we do get some emotional moments between the father and son – Will, which actually gets you to care about the main characters, the main thing this film has going for it is the intense build up to the final showdown between Ambrose and the werewolves. Late Phases should appease most horror fans, especially those who are sick to death of the crappy CGI used in ‘modern’ films today. The special effects team did a pretty good job with the one transformation scene in the movie, though it still pales in comparison to the transforming scene in American Werewolf in London. And with the practical effects and nice looking werewolf suits, genre fans will surely be thrilled.
Nick Damici playing Ambrose gives quite the performance, which shouldn’t be surprising for those who have seen him in Stakeland. Will (Embry) also does a good job of playing the emotionally deprived son who is hurt by his father’s no-care attitude. They have several scenes in this film which add some emotional depth to the film and gets you to care about the characters (which is rare for a werewolf/horror film).
While the build up to the final fight(s) between Ambrose and the werewolves is intense, the real golden nugget of the film is the showdown itself which was pretty epic considering it’s a blind guy having to fight the beasts himself. There were a few disappointments and a few more, never before seen in a werewolf film, moments like when Ambrose flipped one of the hapless beasts over his shoulder, the real highlights were getting to see what Ambrose was working on for that long month. For genre fans this showdown will be a delight.
Now onto the several negatives of the film. I don’t like nitpicking but one of the things that irked me in Late Phases is how quickly Ambrose accepts the idea that it was a werewolf that attacked him during his first night in the retirement community. That’s a slight nitpick, another thing this film really had going for it (for a while) was the mystery of “whodunit.” Late Phases really dropped the ball on this one since they revealed who the werewolf is mid-film. They should have kept the guessing game going, which would of made this film so much better. Think of what the second best (though that’s not saying much) Howling film did. Howling V: The Rebirth, despite its faults, played the “whodunit” game all the way until the very end, which is when the finally revealed who the werewolf was. I was going into this film really hoping they would do something similar, only to be disappointed by the mid-film reveal of who was behind the killings.
Overall Late Phases is one badass werewolf film, with plenty of violence, emotional debt, solid performances (for the most part) and an epic showdown which should please most horror fans. Best of all perhaps is that it uses practical effects instead of the CGI garbage that many in the horror community have seen once too many times. This film certainly ranks as one of the better modern werewolf films and will probably make its way onto top ten lists very soon. If you’re a horror fan, Late Phases is a must watch.