Late Phases (2014) Review

FF bannerLate_Phases_poster.1Late Phases (2014)

Dir: Adrián García Bogliano
Written By: Eric Stolze
Starring: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise

95 mins.

UK release: Frightfest 2014

Grumpy war vet Ambrose (Damici) moves into a sleepy retirement community, only to discover the place is besieged by werewolves.

It’s sadly rare that a blind person takes centre-stage in any film, let alone in horror, which requires so much to be glimpsed around dark corners. But such is the case with Late Phases, a blackly comic, heart wrenching, incredibly poignant portrayal of a stubborn man, his fractured relationship with his son, and a pack of werewolves who are running riot in the retirement village in which he’s just reluctantly taken up a spot.

In less capable hands, protagonist Ambrose could’ve been a horrible, bitter asshole but the talented Nick Damici (who’s becoming something of a genre staple, following scene-stealing turns in We Are What We Are and Cold In July) makes him an incredibly nuanced, likeable character in spite of his obvious stubbornness. A man who is all-too-aware of his own mortality, Ambrose flatly tells nosy neighbours “I’d see you out, but I’m blind” and has impassioned discussions with a local priest (played by the wonderful Tom Noonan) about the meaning of life and the supposed existence of God.

It’s a difficult role – not least because Damici has to remain bug-eyed for the entirety of the flick – made near impossible by the looming presence of bloodthirsty lycans. Played straight, as a simple father-son conflict drama, Late Phases could’ve been great, but with the inclusion of the mythical creatures, and the scare factor that comes with them, it’s outstanding. Where similarly-themed genre offerings might shy away from showing everything, utilising clever cuts to make the transformation sequences seem more viable, here director Bogliano gives us the money shot in a gloriously extended sequence that shows every contortion, every hair, every split piece of skin.

Late_1.1Late Phases actually boasts some of the most effective werewolf transformation sequences in horror, even if technically its protagonist doesn’t get to see them. And it’s scary as hell, too, with the first, particularly brutal, kill dropped on Ambrose’s very first night in the village. Stuck having to listen through the walls, his neighbour’s blood-curdling screams are terrifying, and when his beloved guide dog – his only real friend – falls victim, too, the threat becomes horribly real. There’s an element of sameness to werewolf movies and, particularly in recent years with the rubbishy CGI creations of the Twilight franchise, they seem to have lost their bite. Late Phases is inventive with the subgenre, even with something as simple as one of the beasts darting past a window or when a group of them crowd around a body.

Director Bogliano, who has several no-budget genre credits to his name including the B short in ABCs Of Death, has truly created something wonderful here. The script, by Eric Stolze, who penned Under The Bed, straddles a careful line between melodrama and genuine pathos, with a streak of perfectly-judged, pitch-black humour running underneath. However, major kudos must go to Wojciech Golczewski, for a superb score that is omnipresent, yet not invasive.

From the opening moments to the final, bloody, brutal battle, it trundles along, championing Ambrose and signalling something sinister is afoot but never overstaying its welcome. Much of mainstream, modern horror relies on signalling a scare is coming with a shriek of violin or a shock of piano keys, but Golczewski is cleverer than that. He weaves his notes in until they become one with the film, until they are part of Ambrose’s journey.

Speaking of whom, Damici gives a revelatory performance as Ambrose. Empathetic, resourceful and relentlessly cranky, his deadpan delivery is a joy to behold and a voicemail he leaves his son is disarmingly poignant. When he explains that, by the time he went blind, he “couldn’t stand to look at the world anyway” it’s difficult not to agree with him, and the amount of fight he puts up in the final act is truly remarkable, not just in spite of his disability.

Late_3.1Late Phases is that rare surprise in horror – smart, poetic, funny and very scary, it serves as a much-needed reminder that sticking to a formula isn’t always the best idea, and that sometimes, even the most seemingly overdone creatures can be given life to feature again.

Gorgeously shot, beautifully scored, with a pitch perfect lead performance from Damici and arguably the best werewolf transformation sequence since John Landis’ seminal creature feature, Late Phases is a genre masterpiece with more depth, more scope and more vision than much of the current landscape combined.

Rating: 9/10

Here Comes The Devil (2012) DVD Review

Dir. Adrián García Bogliano           94 mins
Metrodome Films
UK Release: 16th September 2013
Spanish Language with English Subtitles

Adrián García Bogliano manages to have three UK releases in as many months this year. Firstly there was his contribution to the brilliant ABCs Of Death (‘B’ is for Bigfoot), his rape / revenge thriller I’ll Never Die Alone debuts on Redemption is a couple of weeks, while this week we take a look at his most recent picture, Here Comes The Devil.

Not one for gradual slow build openings, the Spaniard opens the movie with an intense and passionate scene of lesbian sex. Their post-coital discussion is interrupted by a knock on the door and an intruder who pushes one of the girls to the ground chops off her fingers with a knife before fleeing, stripping himself naked and revealing he has a number of other people’s digits in a box he carries. Intrigued?! Good…

After this jolt of an introduction, we’re introduced to the principle characters in the movie who are Felix (Francisco Barreiro), his wife Sol (Laura Caro) and their kids Adolfo (Alan Martinez) and Sara (Michele Garcia). The parents have just had the awkward situation of Sara unexpectedly beginning her first period, but after they’ve managed the situation they opt for some downtime as the kids are pestering to explore some caves that they’ve found. Felix and Sol take the opportunity for some intimacy while their children are off exploring, but pleasure has soon turned to pain as time begins to pass with no sign of the children returning.

DEVIL-002After an evening of regret and arguments between Felix and Sol, the following morning the children are both returned to them by the police. They seem to be fine and state that they both got scared in the cave as it was dark and stayed there until sunrise. The next few days however provide intrigue and mystery, particularly for Sol. She notices that the underwear her daughter was wearing that day is missing, and upon taking her to a doctor she is informed her hymen is absent. Although it’s not a true indicator of sexual activity, there could be a possibility, and after getting nowhere asking her daughter herself she decides to use a child psychologist.

One technique the psychologist uses is to prompt the children to draw pictures of the day they went missing. Most of the drawings seem normal, though one seems to indicate the presence of a red van – a vehicle that Felix remembers vividly in the area the night they went missing. Could this be a clue to a potential abductor, or is the real reason behind the children’s disappearance far more sinister than anyone could have imagined.

Here Comes The Devil is a great movie. Shot in Mexico it’s an edgy, boundary pushing tale of mystery and suspense that delivers intrigue by the bucket full. The film has an overtly sexual overtone from which your own conclusions can be drawn, and also appears to be influenced by Plato and his writing of the Allegory of the Cave. It’s a disturbing film that builds to a quite unforgettable climax, and while it’s certainly not a blood soaked horror film, there is one scene in particular that is one of the most gruesome to have graced my television screen.

DEVIL-003Metrodome yet again have managed to snaffle another gem of a horror movie to release, and I hope it gets the promo it deserves as it’s a movie that demands wide exposure. With his segment in ABCs Of Death fresh in the memory, Adrián García Bogliano is a director that has firmly planted himself on my radar and I’ll await his next work with great anticipation.

7.5 out of 10