Late Phases (Movie Review)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: A blind Vietnam veteran moves into a retirement community is almost immediately assaulted by a werewolf. Knowing it will strike again in one month, he must prepare himself for one last battle.

REVIEW: LATE PHASES introduces a few new wrinkles – literally – into a fairly standard werewolf thriller, but sometimes anything new is worth celebrating, especially in this hairy old genre. Directed by Adrián García Bogliano (HERE COMES THE DEVIL), it’s more a methodically-paced drama about a man confronting certain death than it is a rousing supernatural thrill-ride, but that aspect separates it from the pack (if you’ll pardon the pun) and imbues it with its own personality.

That personality is a stubborn, bitter one, and it comes from the film’s protagonist Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici), a blind veteran, recently a widower, and currently a resident at an old folks community thanks to a dumping-off by his workaholic son (Ethan Embry). Ambrose has plenty of chips on his shoulder, but doesn’t seek anyone’s comfort or pity, just peace and quiet.. and perhaps a noble death. He doesn’t know if he’ll receive any of the three based on his first night at the community: a werewolf attack results in the death of his neighbor and his seeing-eye dog. Rattled but determined, Ambrose is immediately certain of the nature of the beast, and becomes intent on figuring out who the creature is in human form and preparing for the next full moon.

That’s a very concise description, but the fact is, LATE PHASES is a very straight-forward tale. There’s no real mystery regarding the werewolf – we the audience can plainly see what it is early on, and Ambrose doesn’t need convincing to recognize what it is. Stout and proud, he doesn’t run through the town trying to convince others of what he knows, either. The community doesn’t have many suspects – there’s a kindly church-going sort (Lance Guest), a priest (Tom Noonan) and a bevy of old crows who immediately take a disliking to the wily vet – so there’s no mystery to investigate. Ambrose loads up and patiently awaits the next full moon, and his fate, as the next werewolf attack has suddenly given him purpose in these last few years (weeks?) of his life.

Ambrose as a character is mostly one-note, and that’s okay because we believe this crusty old man is who he is. Played by Damici in a no-bullshit manner, the character is, surprisingly, not always likable, but his stoicism makes him a compelling lead. The cast is rounded out by some welcome character actors – Guest and Noonan are especially strong in their roles; it’s a nice change of pace to experience a horror movie where no one is under 30, and most of the characters aren’t under 60. That brings with it an air of reality that is missing from many “kids stranded in the woods” flicks because death – via monster or natural causes – never seems far away.

Eric Stolze’s script comes without many frills or subtexts, keeping its eyes on the prize with an uncomplicated narrative. Some might find LATE PHASES a bit too slow-going, and indeed its middle section is rather uneventful. This is the rare werewolf movie where it doesn’t seem like there’s a full moon every three or four days; a month doesn’t jump by in a flash, we’re actually waiting the entire month out, so there are only two full moons and two werewolf sequences in the film. An intriguing choice that comes with mixed results. I enjoy a good slow-burn horror film as much as anyone, but LATE PHASES certainly appears to be spinning its wheels sometimes, just filling in time before it can arrive at the big denouement. There are some aspects of Ambrose’s life uncovered, and standard father-son tensions are explored, but the screenplay hasn’t reinvented any wheels, and even some of Ambrose’s proactive blind man adventures feel familiar. The killer’s identity is basically incidental, the big revelation a throw-away moment. Perhaps that’s the screenplay being a little too smart for its own good, or maybe it’s just an indication that Ambrose is the only character who really matters.

And yet LATE PHASES works on its own terms. Bogliano, clearly working with a limited budget, is an inventive director who makes each shot count, so LATE PHASES benefits from his clever visual style; a director who knows how to move the camera is always appreciated. The werewolf itself (designed by Robert Kurtzman) is fun, if a bit silly when shown too clearly, but LATE PHASES goes a bit necessarily bonkers at the end, hence it’s an enjoyable villain to behold. When the carnage clears, there’s even some poignancy to be found amidst the blood and bullets.

Late Phases (Movie Review)



Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Eric Walkuski is a longtime writer, critic, and reporter for He's been a contributor for over 15 years, having written dozens of reviews and hundreds of news articles for the site. In addition, he's conducted almost 100 interviews as JoBlo's New York correspondent.