M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on November 17, 2014. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Shudder and Amazon Prime!
LATE PHASES (2014)
aka NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
Written by Eric Stolze
Starring Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise, Rutanya Alda, Caitlin O’Heaney, Erin Cummings, Tom Noonan, Larry Fessenden, Al Sapienza, Bernardo Cubria, Karen Lynn Gorney, Karron Graves, Haythem Noor, Kareem Savinon, Charles Techman
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Horror films with old people are hit and miss with me. When it is horror about growing old, it really strikes an uncomfortable chord in me as I have officially become middle-aged. So when those types of films, as with the recent Alzheimer’s horror film THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN, are done well, it hits me like a Mack truck. Then there are the films about old age that I prefer, that of seeing the elderly as the underdog and showing that despite age, there’s still some fire in the old heart. LATE PHASES: NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF is such a film and it is a magnificent one at that.
COLD SWEAT and HERE COMES THE DEVIL director Adrian Garcia Bogliano makes his English language film debut with LATE PHASES, the story of a blind Vietnam War vet named Ambrose (STAKE LAND’s Nick Damici) who moves into a retirement community the day before a vicious attack by a giant animal takes the lives of two of his neighbors and his own seeing eye dog. Ambrose encounters the monster, but of course, can’t identify it, but we see that it is not a coyote or a bear, but a werewolf. Having survived the encounter and in a race against time before the next full moon appears, Ambrose investigates the mystery, scouring the retirement community to see if his outlandish suspicions are true—that it’s a werewolf massacring these old fogies.
An old dude vs. a werewolf sounds ripe with comic potential, but Bogliano plays everything deadly serious. As Ambrose uses his other senses to snoop around the community, his son (played by Ethan Embry) begins to think his old man is losing it. After the explosive first few moments where Ambrose encounters the werewolf, the film slows down, but maintains an intensity that grows and grows until the moon is full again during the climax. Bogliano paces this film remarkably, interspersing quiet and patient moments of character with Ambrose interacting with a list of suspects with more drama between a distant father and a son who is attempting to connect with him. Dealing with the guilt one feels about leaving one’s parent in a retirement home or under assisted care, Bogliano fills this film, not only with mystery and moments of sheer horror, but an aching heart as well. This film made me tear up at the end and if you had a complex relationship with your own father, you may find yourself doing so as well.
This film is nothing without the phenomenal performance of Nick Damici. I was one of the few who was underwhelmed by his performance in STAKE LAND, but here as Ambrose, you’d think Damici was channeling the ghost of Charles Bronson with his restrained, yet powerful performance as our central character. Ambrose is a soldier whose scars run deep and was a tough father and husband to his family. A man who measures his words carefully and succinctly, Damici’s Ambrose is a wonderfully rich character you can’t help but root for despite his gruffness.
This being a werewolf film, there’s always the question as to whether the transformation scene and the werewolf effects are good or not. For the most part, they are, as Bogliano chooses to go practical effects all the way. The transformation scene isn’t completely original, but it is fantastically done. There may be one scene where the werewolf is seen on a surveillance camera where the suit looks a bit comical, but otherwise, Bogliano keeps things close—highlighting the articulated jaw full of jagged teeth and matted strands of hair. The wolves here are immense and menacing, more reminiscent of THE HOWLING. But while THE HOWLING kept a lot of the wolves in the dark, this making them look scarier, Bogliano has them lit a bit more and that might have been the only mistake he makes.
It’s tough to find a good werewolf film. Sure films like DOG SOLDIERS and GINGER SNAPS make the short list in terms of more recent and successful films in this genre. LATE PHASES can now be added to that list as it really is one of the good ones. Reminiscent mostly to STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET, LATE PHASES is a remarkably acted, practically effected, and toughly told werewolf film like few others. Damici is amazing and I hope this leads to bigger roles for him and the supporting cast from Embry to Larry Fessenden and Tom Noonan hit all the right buttons as well. In terms of werewolf films this year, LATE PHASES is leader of the pack!
THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!
#7 – LATE PHASES
#8 – IT FOLLOWS
#9 – SPRING
#10 – EAT
#11 – GOODNIGHT MOMMY
#12 – LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
#13 – STARRY EYES
#14 – THE BOY
#15 – THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN
#16 – THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME
#17 – THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
#18 – CUB
#19 – POD
#20 – BACKCOUNTRY
#21 – CLOSER TO GOD
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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