Late Phases (2014)
★★★ / ★★★★
Horror-drama “Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf,” directed by Adrián García Bogliano, might be mistaken as an 80’s flick due to its insistence of using masks, paint, and makeup—staying as far away as possible from CGI. What results is a nostalgic but visually impressive piece of work that is appropriately rough around the edges. I wished, however, that they got the werewolf faces just right or had not shown them at all.
Nick Damici is magnetic as a blind Vietnam veteran named Ambrose, sent to live in a retirement community with his guide dog, Shadow. There is a Paul Newman-esque quality about him, especially in the way he talks tough and looks into the distance. A case can be made that the best parts of the movie is when it is utterly silent and the audience learns about Ambrose in the way he adapts to his environment and how he prepares himself for an upcoming werewolf attack. The veteran may be blind but Damici plays the character with a sharp mind and a pointed personality.
There is a surprising amount of humor in the film, particularly in Ambrose’s interactions with his fellow retirees. Equipped with a strong sense of smell, he detects fakery from the moment three seemingly lovely ladies pay him a visit to welcome him into the neighborhood. The humor comes through the clash between those so desperate to be liked and one who does not care for such trivialities and pleasantries—be genuine or leave him the hell alone.
The drama comes in the form of a father-son relationship. While not strong as it should be because the script fails to give many specific details of why relationship is so strained, I enjoyed their scenes because I felt a real pain from the son (Ethan Embry) who feels so distanced from his father. Deep inside he wishes he and his father were closer, but Ambrose remains unmoved by numerous attempts of connection. Watching these two characters at this point their lives is interesting because we get the feeling they are on the verge of giving up with one another.
Lycanthropes appear only in the beginning and toward the end—a decision that I admired because a lot of anticipation is gathered prior to the finale. We watch the protagonist prepare his body, his environment, and his mind. The psychological preparation is done through his half a dozen interactions with a preacher who is played by Tom Noonan—even though Ambrose is not at all religious. The two performers share wonderful chemistry because they are able to match each other’s differently colored intensities and subtleties. They do so much with the dialogue and those who care about meaningful exchanges in horror films are certain to be pleased.
Written by Eric Stolze, “Late Phases” is not only a throwback to the ‘80s because of the monster makeup but also in its attempt to fascinate through a more psychological avenue. I was elated because here is a werewolf movie that is more interested in ideas and characterization than blood—even though on that front it delivers, too.