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Late Phases (2014)
Dark Sky Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/10/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/9/2015
I've been a horror movie fan my entire life and I like to think that I have a diverse taste for the genre. However, I've never really gotten into the classic monsters. This may have to do with the fact that I my formative years were the 70s and 80s where the greats, most notably the iconic Universal Monsters, were out of the limelight. Of these fiends, I would have to say that I find werewolves the most interesting. These characters had a comeback in the early 80s with An American Werewolf in London andThe Howling, both of which helped to redefine the transformation sequence and the look of werewolves. Since that time, I've always checked out werewolf movies when I can to see what the creatures look like. If the film also has an interesting sounding story, then I'm in, which is why I was interested in seeing Late Phases.
As Late Phases opens, Ambrose (Nick Damici), with the aid of his son, Will (Ethan Embry), is moving into a retirement community. Ambrose recently lost his wife, and despite the fact that he is blind, this surly Vietnam Veteran insists on living alone. Well, not alone, as he's accompanied by his dog, Shadow. On his first night in his new home, Ambrose is getting settled in when he hears strange, animal-like noises coming from next door. Suddenly, something bursts through the wall and attacks Ambrose and Shadow. Despite the fact that Ambrose can't see, given the creature's size and strength, he instinctively knows what it is -- a werewolf. As that was the night of the full moon, Ambrose realizes that he has one month before the creature returns to do the job. He begins to exercise, ensures that his guns are ready, and he begins to ask around about deaths or disappearances in the area. While everyone else thinks that he is crazy, Ambrose knows that he is gearing up for the fight of his life.
It doesn't happen very much anymore, but there was a time that when there was something unusual or slightly creepy on the news, the announcer would inevitably say, "It's like something out of a Stephen King story." Typically, they were way off base, and any true King fan would most likely be irked by these statements. Now, Late Phases -- this feels like something out of a Stephen King story, and not just because the tale reminded me of King's Cycle of the Werewolf. Whether or not it was intentional, Writer Eric Stolze (not Eric Stoltz) has tapped into a very King-like story here. The idea of a blind Vietnam Vet who takes on a werewolf in a retirement community sounds exactly like something which would be in Stephen King short story. (Or perhaps something by Joe Lansdale.) The idea crams enough familiar and disparate components together that it creates something which sounds like it has a lot of potential.
Unfortunately, something got lost on the way to the screen and with the requirement of taking this idea and turning it into a feature-length movie. Late Phases is one of those movies where there is always something happening on-screen, but we aren't getting a lot of story. Let's face it, it would take a hell of a movie to maintain momentum after a werewolf attack occurs in the first act, and Late Phases simply doesn't have the stamina. So, the space between that first attack and the finale is filled with scene after scene of Ambrose pissing off his neighbors. Which leads me to my next point -- Ambrose isn't a very likeable character, which makes it difficult for the film to draw the viewer in. Sure, we expect him to be cranky and hard-edged, but he alienates everyone who he meets, including the audience.
But, everything is fine when the action-packed third act arrives, right? Not really. Part of the story is a mystery, as Ambrose is convinced that the werewolf is one of his neighbors and he sets about to discover who this might be. The movie decides to awkwardly reveal the monster's identity to the audience near the start of the third act, but it doesn't carry much of an emotional impact. Following this, the movie takes an upturn, as the werewolf reveals his big plan. Sadly, things take a turn for the worse as the final battle begins. I don't want to give away too much, but when we finally see the werewolves in all of their glory, we see that some questionable choices were made in the creature design and what should be scary, or at least bad-ass, is almost laughable.
Given its concept, Late Phases has generated some buzz, and I for one was very excited about seeing it. I must say that, overall, I'm disappointed in the movie. Spanish director Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Cold Sweat, Penumbra) has made other films where a good idea goes off of the rails, and Late Phases is no exception. So, I guess that we are forced to wait for the first great werewolf film of the new millennium.
Late Phases does a nice job of bringing some veteran actresses back to the screen on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing only mild grain at times and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and are mostly natural. The picture is just slightly dark at times, most notable in the nighttime scenes. The level of detail is good and the picture is never soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track does a lot for the film, most notably during the attack scenes, where we can hear growling coming from all around us. The first attack scene provides some nice subwoofer effects as well.
The Late Phases Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano. "Making Of" (15 minutes) offers interviews with the creative team including Bogliano, Producers Brent Kunkle, and Larry Fessenden, and actor Nick Damici who talk about the origin of the movie, the characters, and the actual production. "FX Featurette" (30 minutes) takes us inside the special effects makeup studio to witness nearly every step of the process which went into creating the werewolf suits. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long