Late Phases (2014) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

Have you seen the 2014 werewolf movie Late Phases? If you haven’t, it just might be the best horror movie you never saw

Zombie movies? Can’t shake a stick without knocking a minimum of 20 quality ones out of a tree. You want vampires? Tell me the decade and the type and I’ll give you recommendations to keep you going for weeks. Werewolves? Well, for some reason, the werewolf falls in with his other Universal monster counterparts The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon as creatures that should have a lot more entries come to mind. I’m not saying that there aren’t any, quite the contrary. I can tell you quite a few must-see werewolf movies that you all probably know but the list is not nearly as deep as the other monsters mentioned above. Late Phases (watch it HERE), also known under the stupidly generic title of Night of the Wolf, does a lot of interesting things while being a thoroughly enjoyable and almost arthouse movie which more than qualifies as a Best Horror Movie You Never Saw.

This entry started when my oldest son, the 13-year-old, asked the question that needed asking. What are some of the best werewolf movies and can I see them? The second part of that question is irrelevant to our discussion today, but the other one is damn important. I thought of all of the usual suspects and then when I looked up a few options I came across Late Phases, something I remember watching and enjoying, but that had also fallen through the cracks to the point that I swore it came out in 2017 not 2014. I took a chance and rewatched it and remembered exactly why I liked it and why I want to recommend it to watchers of this particular show. I can’t find its budget or box office numbers but it’s not an overly expensive movie and it appears the only theatrical action it saw was at the South by Southwest film festival. It came out the following year on digital and disc formats, but I don’t have sales numbers there either. Absolutely screams “best movie you never saw” because there just is not a lot of records of people actually seeing it.

Late Phases Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano enjoyed the script he read from Eric Stolze and had built up a reputation with his segment of The ABCs of Death as well as Here Comes the Devil from 2012. While he has slowed down a bit since this movie’s release, he continues to work in film and TV today. Eric Stolze has far less to his name but also most recently wrote surprise 2020 hit The Stylist. The talent assembled in front of the camera is far more recognizable, well except one who is a name you will know but I literally didn’t recognize him until looking it up. The lead is blind veteran Ambrose Mckinley played to salty perfection by Nick Damici. Damici was first known to me when he showed up in that early 2000s sleazy Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo movie In the Cut but has a trilogy of good and underseen horror movies with today’s flick, the American remake of We Are What We Are, and Stake Land. He also wrote Stake Land, We Are What We Are, and several episodes of underrated TV show Hap and Leonard.

We will get into more of the cast later, but the movie opens up Ambrose looking to pick out his headstone as he is moving to a senior living space. The salesperson is played by Larry Fessenden who shows up in nearly every independent horror movie now but that’s also because he helps produce so many of them, including this one. Ambrose’s son Will, played by Ethan Embry, drops him off at his new living arrangement and even though Ambrose is curmudgeonly to put it lightly, he makes friends with his very sweet neighbor. He’s not as kind to the welcoming party but to be fair, he’s not wrong. These characters would bug the heck out of me too. This is Damici’s movie in every sense. His line delivery, the added age makeup as even though he was in his early 50s, the character was a decent amount older, and his mannerisms while playing blind are all incredible.

He finds a claw in his new wall, and we learn what it belongs to much quicker than anticipated. A Howling size bipedal werewolf kills both his new neighbor friend and his guide dog. Kudos to the movie for getting right into it with the monster of the movie and having the guts to kill that sweet dog. Ambrose is unable to get his gun in time to save the dog or kill the monster, but he is motivated. Of course, the community and police don’t believe him. Crescent Bay apparently has attacks like this once a month where people and animals are attacked and killed. Ambrose knows its more than this and I can tell what some of you are thinking…haven’t I seen this in Bubba Ho-Tep but with a Mummy? While the retirement community is a familiar place, this doesn’t have the over-the-top premise or silliness. The movie has a lot of witty lines but is a mostly serious and straightforward story.

For being a grounded veteran, Ambrose is ready to jump to the werewolf conclusion pretty quickly and I think it helps the movie. What also helps the movie is he never really outright tells anyone what he thinks is happening. His next course of action is to find out who in the community is the creature. He goes to where his favorite women are and its probably the right time to mention that one of them is Ginger from Gilligan’s Island, one of them is a horror mainstay from Amityville II, The Dark Half, and The Stuff, and the last one was in He Knows You’re Alone and Wolfen. Intentional or not, its fun to have these names show up in mostly thankless roles. Ambrose doesn’t think its one of the older ladies in the community so he heads to the church services after the recommendation from the local police.

On the bus we get an awesome red herring when Tom Noonan shows up as the father of the church. I say red herring because it almost seems like a rule that when Tom Noonan shows up, he’s the bad guy. The movie lets you feel that way for a while but eventually dispels it and it’s a fun diversion. The other guy who shows up on the bus is who I mentioned earlier. There is no way I would have ever recognized him but it’s Lance Guest from Halloween II, Jaws: The Revenge, and The Last Starfighter. The cast here is such a fun and enjoyable collection of actors that put their all into the characters, even if they are mostly one dimensional. Ambrose goes to a guy for ammo and while he has eliminated the father, he asks if anyone else has asked for silver bullets. It’s a great way to find out who may have been the wolf without telling the ammo maker that he is hunting werewolves. There’s even a cool exchange where he asks the guy what silver bullets make him think of…. and he says The Lone Ranger.

Late Phases Best Horror Movie You Never Saw

We cut to who asked for silver bullets and its Lance Guest’s character of the driver and helper at the church. He knows that Ambrose is on to him and that Ambrose may be hard to deal with one on one. After a really nice emotional exchange between Ambrose and his son, something that will pay off a little down the line, Griffin decides to make a mini army of wolves to help him. The really messed up part and a cool addition to the movie is that he bites these victims in his human form. It’s really disturbing. He does it knowing the full moon is coming soon and he will have them ready to go. He even does it during the day, which is always fun for a horror movie to showcase that sort of thing in the light of the sun.

Ambrose knows that the final fight is about to go down and we find out that Father Smith did know in a way what James was up to. In a classically tragic werewolf trope, James hunted and killed the beast when he first came out here over 20 years ago, but it also got to him. In maybe the best line of the movie he tells Father Smith that he’s going to fully kill him out of love because he doesn’t wish this fate on anyone. The transformation scene is one of the better you will see and showcases why we still need to use practical effects. The final form of the wolves may be cheesy if not unique, but I dare you to find something bad to say about James’s transformation.

Ambrose is ambushed in his neighbor’s house and is clawed deeply in the side but makes it home and goes full Rolling Thunder by putting on his military uniform to take on the threat. He leaves a final message to his son that we hear in full at the end of the movie and it ties up the emotional story of the movie nicely. Ambrose may not be able to see but he uses his other senses and training to get the jump on his attackers. He takes almost as much as he gives but is able to brutally dispatch the entire team of lycanthropes in convincing fashion. Knowing he isn’t going to make it; he lays down in his rocker and peacefully goes out before his son finds him.

The music is most noticeable in the final act and over the credits but it’s one final piece of the puzzle that puts together a really fun movie. Late Phases fights the glut of straight to video movies that are bad imitations of Hollywood showcases. It’s a tight tale with nearly everything going for it, well, except for that dumb alternate title and awful alternate poster. Both the name Late Phases and the brilliant orange and black poster show exactly what you will get out of this movie. I don’t blame anyone who sees the bad alternate poster with title and decides to pass. For those willing to give it a try, you will not only find one of the centuries best werewolf tales but also, without a doubt, one of the best horror movies you never saw.

A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

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