Nick Damici in Late Phases (Dark Sky Films)

Nick Damici in Late Phases (Dark Sky Films)

Directed by Adrián García Bogliano
Produced by Larry Fessenden, Brent Kunkle, Greg Newman, Zak Zeman
Written by Eric Stolze
Released by Dark Sky Films
USA. 95 min. Rated R
With Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise, Rutanya Alda, Caitlin O’Heaney, Tom Noonan, Larry Fessenden, and Erin Cummings

The setup of this werewolf movie is unique and intriguing. Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is a Vietnam Vet being shuttled to a retirement community by his son. McKinley is tough as nails, hard to love…and blind. His son clearly loves him and wants what’s best for him, but McKinley brushes off his only child, as he does everyone else. This is a man who prefers to be alone and requires help from nobody save his seeing-eye dog, Shadow.

Just as he settles in, a werewolf attacks his neighbor, then Ambrose, then his dog. The dog dies and Ambrose is pissed. The cops come and take perfunctory statements, but the witness is old. You know, confused and delusional. So, who’s going to believe him when he hints at werewolves? Being left to his own devices and happy for it, Ambrose preps for the next full moon. He susses out the neighbors, tries to figure out who the culprit is, booby traps his house, and waits.

Since there is little action in the middle section, Late Phases starts examining Ambrose. His guard is constantly up. He’s short with everyone and brooks no fools and makes no friends, save Father Roger (Tom Noonan), who serves the retirees. Noonan and Damici have several quiet conversations about regrets and sacrifice, all beautifully written that make up the heart of the film.

But, of course, this is a werewolf movie and when it arrives, we are treated to a bravura finale. There’s gore, humor, action, and surprise a plenty to contrast the relatively serious aforementioned themes. It becomes a good ole horror flick again.

The writing is very well done, the direction is nicely paced, and we never lose interest. The acting by Damici is superb. And yet, there’s certain frostiness. Late Phases wants to scare you sure, but it also wants to get to your heart. It wants you to feel for the father/son relationship and hope that an estrangement is resolved. It wants to appeal to your heart as well as frighten you. And though all the pieces are in place, you are watching a well-made but not overly involving film. Ambrose is a loner by nature. He cuts himself off from others, and perhaps from the audience, too.