Late Phases (A.K.A. Night of the Wolf) (2014)
Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
Written by Eric Stolze
Produced by Larry Fessenden, Brent Kunkle, Greg Newman, Zak Zeman, Joel Alonso, Luis Flores, Lex Ortega, Andrea Quiroz, Hamza Ali
Starring Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tom Noonan, Erin Cummings, Rutanya Alda, Tina Louise, Caitlin O’Heaney, Larry Fessenden, Dana Ashbrook, Karen Lynn Gorney, Al Sapienza, Bernardo Cubria, Charles Techman, Haythem Noor, Frances Sherman, Karron Graves, Raina, Kareem Savinon, Pun Bandhu, Ralph Cashen
Should you in the autumn of your years confront lycanthropy, take as many of the beasts with you as you may. That’s the intent of a blind Vietnam vet (Damici) whose first night at a cloistered retirement community leaves his service dog (Raina) and neighbor (Gorney) messily murdered under a full moon. He has a month before the next to reconnoiter his settlement, investigate its inhabitants, and arm himself to the teeth and death. At least as much a drama as a horror, this curiosity is enriched by Bogliano’s thoughtful direction, Aaron Crozier’s meticulous editing and its fantastic, familiar, graying players. From gait to diction, Damici’s studied turn as the tough, sightless, cantankerous soldier makes his truly challenging role seem facile when tossing off Stolze’s wittily brusque rejoinders as naturally as he avouches rigors and regrets to a local priest created reticently by Noonan, who understates (as usual) a boundless sympathy for his flock, though he’s no less striking or suspect than Guest, his most faithful congregant. Embry now resembles an ugly Henry Ford, but his concerned and uncomprehending filial army brat is well-rendered as a solid foil for Damici. Unfortunately, two of the movie’s most compulsive thespians are merely peripheral: warmly wolfish co-producer Fessenden haggles with Damici over the cost of a tombstone as though it’s a used car, and seedy Ashbrook fills his order for silver ammunition with his enduringly boyish bubbliness. During intervening lunar phases, Stolze dispenses exposition with sensible and conversational reserve, painting his protagonist with a humane detail that transcends cliché. Any viewer patient to wait for the showdown between geriatric werewolves and grizzled warrior will be rewarded with its smartly plotted and gorily impressive action. Transformational effects here can’t compare to those of the classics from ’81 that inspired them (The Howling and An American Werewolf in London), but they’re gruesomely realized with an adequate balance of makeup, prosthetics and CG. Damici’s facial makeup ages him realistically, yet few old men have such glabrous and blemishless upper extremities. Softer passages of Wojciech Golczewski’s score contribute to a minatory miasma cleft by sharp strings that are outsize and unharmonious for such a modest production. Hardly a classic, this umptieth filmic treatment of the loup-garou is nevertheless a poignant portrait of familial and mortal affairs put in order.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Bubba Ho-Tep.

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