The year 2014 was an interesting one for the horror genre. If the 2010s heralded a new ‘golden era’ for the genre, an argument could be made that 2014 was the year that kicked things off. Several quirky horror title released that year including It Follows, Tusk, The Babadook, Starry Eyes, and Creep. Not surprisingly, some smaller titles found themselves lost in the shuffle. Among those under-the-radar efforts, indie werewolf movie Late Phases made the rounds at film festivals before quietly releasing on VOD platforms. Critics were split on the movie, but its reputation has grown over the years.
Following the death of his wife, blind Vietnam veteran Ambrose McKinley moves into an isolated retirement community at the behest of his estranged son. But not everything is quite as tranquil as the community’s appearance suggest. On his first night, a mysterious animal from a neighboring forest smashes into his unit, killing his dog. When Ambrose realizes that the attacks on the residents follow the lunar cycle, he prepares to fight back at the next full moon.
Late Phases Mostly Overcomes Inevitable Comparisons to Bubba Ho-Tep
Yes, Late Phases immediately faces an unenviable comparison to cult classic Bubba Ho-Tep. And it’s not hard to see why. Both movies have stories revolving around an elderly protagonist facing off against a supernatural evil in a retirement community. But that’s really where the comparisons end. Though Late Phases is something of an offbeat indie horror movie, director Adrián García Bogliano takes a much more serious approach to the material. Where the two movies intersect is the story focus – writer Eric Stolze downplays werewolf mythology to ground things in Ambrose McKinley’s estrangement from his son and the world more generally.
Though Late Phases is something of an offbeat indie horror movie, director Adrián García Bogliano takes a much more serious approach to the material.
Regardless of the story and its focus, Late Phases is a werewolf movie and, as a result, needs to deliver on certain fronts. First-time director Bogliano paces out the story quite well, wasting little time introducing the supernatural horror. And there’s a decent amount of gore and bits of suspense well distributed in between the thriller’s more emotional pieces. In addition, Stolze’s story cleverly pays off some odd plot points like Ambrose’s insistence on burying and digging up and re-burying his dead dog. As for the werewolf transformation, Robert Kurtzman’s effects are surprisingly good for indie horror. Too bad Bogliano overexposes his werewolf making for some awkwardly laughable moments. However, Late Phases recovers with a well-executed finale.
Late Phases Benefits From Nick Damici’s Salty Turn as a Blind Vietnam War Veteran
If the werewolf looks suspect in full shots, what’s not debatable is the value of Nick Damici’s performance as blind Vietnam veteran Ambrose McKinley. A favourite among horror fans courtesy of his role in Stake Land, Damici invests McKinley with a brusque manner, stubbornness, and rugged independence that makes him oddly endearing. Maybe Late Phases stretches credulity with McKinley’s final showdown, but Damici makes the moments easier to swallow. As Ambrose’s son ‘Will’, Ethan Embry (Disturbing Behavior, The Devil’s Candy) has much less to do. Yet Embry’s relationship with Damici feels natural and adds an emotional core to the movie that elevates it above similar fare.
Maybe Late Phases stretches credulity with McKinley’s final showdown, but Damici makes the moments easier to swallow.
For an indie horror movie, Late Phases also boasts an impressive supporting cast of horror regulars and interesting faces. Veteran character actor Tom Noonan (The Monster Squad, House of the Devil) turns up and plays against expectations, which adds a bit of a surprise to the movie. Another horror veteran Lance Guest (Halloween II, Jaws: The Revenge) also turns up and surprises with his character. And if you’re old enough you may recognize Tina Louise – of Gilligan’s Island fame – in small supporting role as one of the retirement home community members.
Late Phases Deserves Some Hidden Gem Status
If comparisons to Bubba Ho-Tep are inevitable, they’re not warranted as Late Phases adopts a less quirky, more serious tone. Decent amounts of gore, occasional suspense, and an impressive transformation do eventually give way to too much werewolf. Bogliano overexposes the very limited monster effects, which nearly nearly kills the goodwill previously established. But Damici’s character and performance – along with an honest, emotional story – ultimately save this one. Regardless of its limited effects, Late Phases remains something of a hidden gem.