Review: LATE PHASES

LatePhases_Poster2014 has ended up being a record breaking year in horror, with so many quality films being put out for genre fans. It’s a time and era that is completely full of creativity, from cults to parenting to everything in between, the genre has put out film after film, releasing something for everyone. A subgenre that has been lacking in recent years though, is that of the werewolf film. We’ve been given countless bad CGI werewolf films, and even action films disguised as horror films (I’m looking at you UNDERWORLD), but as far as a good, practical effects-heavy werewolf film goes, there really hasn’t been much…until now. HERE COMES THE DEVIL director Adrián García Bogliano’s LATE PHASES is not only the movie that fans of werewolves have been waiting a good while for, it’s also an emotionally charged drama, packed to the gills with excellent performances.

The film’s plot of Ambrose, a veteran who has gone blind with time, and his disconnect from his family, his surroundings and life, is a setup that just screams success. The tough veteran is instantly recognizable, as we’ve all known or had family members who were from a lost time, a time when soldiers came back different than when they left, and how hard it was to sometimes be around them. Will, Ambrose’s son, finds it impossible to deal with his father, and that lack of a loving father figure is something that has apparently affected him. Dropping Ambrose off at a retirement community, as a viewer, you can feel Will’s pain and regret of having to do it. Before the film’s werewolf situations even come into the film, there is already enough character development to keep you wanting to see how the story of Ambrose will play out, and when it does, you’re along for the ride on every way.

During his first night alone in his new home, a horrible attack happens next door to him, and when Ambrose yells through the walls to see if his neighbor is alright, a large creature lunges at the wall, cracking it, and sending Ambrose flying down. A few moments later, the beast breaks into Ambrose’s house and saved only by his dog, Shadow, Ambrose comes face to face with the creature.

It’s after the loss of his dog at the hands of the creature, that we begin to see a bit of the tough as nails soldier part of Amrbose, as he quickly comes to the realization of what he’s dealing with, and he prepares for the next confrontation with the beast. In the middle of that preparation, we’re given great performances from the great Tom Noonan as Father Roger, a flawed minister with an instant fascination with Ambrose; Griffin (Lance Guest, HALLOWEEN II, THE LAST STARFIGHTER), a member of Father Roger’s congregation who is as loyal as possible to the minister. We’re also given one memorable cameo by TWIN PEAKS‘ Bobby Brooks himself, Dana Ashbrook, as a gun seller who has the task of making a certain kind of bullet that would come in handy in case of another attack.

Part of what makes LATE PHASES so good, is how many great actors it has, and all of them give 200% the entire time. Nick Damici is absolutely perfect as Ambrose, a hardened man full of regret and anger, ready to give his all one last time. His dedication to that one last battle makes might alienate everyone around him, but it’s very clear to Ambrose what he has to do and the cost that might come with it. Also a standout in the film is Ethan Embry’s performance as Will, a son who tries to keep that connection with a father who gives nothing in return. Seeing Embry performances in recent times is awesome, as he’s come along way since the days of DUTCH and EMPIRE RECORDS. With recent performances in films like CHEAP THRILLS, THE GUEST (even if that one was a small role) and now LATE PHASES, Embry really comes into his own, and is an actor to really root for, because the guy can act, and the scenes between Will and Ambrose are heartbreaking at times, a sure sign that both Damici and Embry are capable as hell of making you feel for their characters and the dilemma that Ambrose is in.

The film feels like a combination of SILVER BULLET and a family drama about coming to terms with one’s mortality and things left unsaid between a father and his son. Part mystery (who the hell IS the werewolf?!) and part badass takedown film, LATE PHASES scores throughout the entire film, giving some excellent creature designs by Robert Kurtzman, great performances by all involved, and a story that will not only excite you but also make you want to call your father (or son) and tell them you appreciate them. It’s a film that not only gives werewolf fans the film they’ve been waiting for, but is also easily the best film of its kind in at least a decade.

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