Synopsis: Crescent Bay is not the ideal place to spend one’s golden years, especially since the once-idyllic retirement community has been beset by a series of deadly animal attacks from the ominous forest surrounding it. When grizzled war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is forced into moving there by his yuppie son Will (Ethan Embry), the residents immediately take offense to Ambrose’s abrasive personality. But that take-no-prisoners attitude may be just what Ambrose needs to survive as it becomes clear that the attacks are being caused by creatures that are neither animal nor man, and that the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay is hiding something truly sinister in its midst.
Release Date: November 21, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Thriller, Action
Remember the good old days, way back before CGI, when movie wolf-men were guys in monster suits and werewolf transformations were done in-camera instead of on a computer? Those days may be gone, but they’re not forgotten. Late Phases is leading the charge to take us all back there.
Late Phases stars Nick Damici (We Are What We Are) as Ambrose McKinley, a Vietnam veteran who was blinded in combat. Aided by his son, Will (Ethan Embry from Cheap Thrills), and his seeing-eye dog, Shadow, Ambrose lives in a gated retirement community. One evening, he hears his next door neighbor being attacked by an animal. He and Shadow fight the beast off, but Shadow is killed in the ruckus. The police think that Ambrose’s neighbor was the victim of a dog attack, but Ambrose knows better. Figuring out that his community is being stalked by a werewolf, Ambrose prepares himself for the next full moon and the return of the beast, his mind bent on exacting revenge for the murder of his dog.
The best way to describe Late Phases is just good, plain fun. Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil) pays homage to all of the now-classic werewolf movies of the eighties, movies that fans will remember fondly from their youth such as The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. The screenplay, written by Eric Stolze (Under the Bed), is a pretty simple story about a man who wants revenge on the beast that did him wrong. It’s a perfect blueprint for the elements that make the film stand out. Those elements are twofold: the performance of Nick Damici as the badass ex-soldier who doesn’t let his disability be a factor in his life, and the coolest cinematic werewolf in recent memory. The story does follow much of the typical werewolf mythology, with silver bullets and full moons and all, but there are also plenty of surprises that make the film its own. Late Phases does for werewolf movies what The Lost Boys and Near Dark did for vampire movies in the eighties; it makes them cool again.
Late Phases is not a wholly serious movie. It’s a creature feature, pretending to be solemn and stern while it drips with melodrama, keeping its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. It’s also a story about survival, a tale of man vs. beast that is surprisingly evenly matched. Most of all, Late Phases is just a hell of a good time. See it, or risk missing one of the best horror movies of the year.
It goes without saying that the effects in a throwback horror film like Late Phases are practical. The werewolf is an actor in a furry suit and latex appliances. Some of the close-up scenes look like an animatronic or a puppet was used, but the beast is not CG at all. And it looks great that way. The creature suit was designed by David Greathouse (who also did special effects makeup for Tusk and John Dies at the End), and it’s a good old fashioned zipper-up-the-back wolf-man costume – a refreshing change from the created-in-post production Twilight-esque wolves that have usurped all of the current werewolf movies. Incidentally, the creature does move more like a man than a wolf (and it is suit creator Greathouse inside the suit for most of the movie), even to the extent that, in one scene when the monster is shown on a security camera screen, it looks more like a sports mascot than a ferocious beast. The werewolf transformations are done practically as well, with the actor ripping away latex skin to reveal the wolf fur underneath. It’s not as ambitious as Rick Baker’s legendary transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London (which was also done practically), but the seams in the effects are covered up by some clever and skillful editing, and the transformation ends up looking awesome. They may not be as slick as some of the other modern movie effects, but the visuals in Late Phases have just as much character as the rest of the film, and that’s what makes them great.
The score to Late Phases is a mashup of the different styles of horror movie music from the seventies and eighties. There are definite classical themes in the score, written by Wojciech Golczewski (Munger Road, Dark Souls), but they’re highly accessible to even the most casual of listeners. The sounds of religious choirs along the lines of Jerry Goldsmith’s score for The Omen mix effortlessly with the campy synthesizers from movies like Night of the Creeps or The Warriors. The soundtrack is spooky and foreboding, but it still has a beat to which the listener can dance. Golczewski’s score fits right in with the vintage throwback feel of Late Phases.
There’s a lot of scary stuff in Late Phases for those who can suspend their disbelief a little bit. Underneath the melodrama and campiness is a pretty good base coat of dread and fear. There are jump scares, but none of them are cheap; they all mean something. The werewolf monster is a little silly at times (that’s part of its charm), but it’s definitely ferocious, and not the kind of beast that one would want to meet in a dark alley. Late Phases won’t cause the type of fear that sticks around, but for the ninety or so minutes of the film, it’s scary.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Adrian Garcia Bogliano
- Screenwriter(s): Eric Stolze
- Cast: Nick Damici (Ambrose)Ethan Embry (Will)Lance Guest (Griffin) Tina Louise (Clarissa)Rutanya Alda (Gloria B.)Erin Cummings (Anne)Tim Noonan (Father Roger)
- Editor(s): Aaron Crozier
- Cinematographer: Ernesto Herrera
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Wojciech Golczewski
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA