I guess it’s only fitting that I should write this review past five in the morning given the title of the movie. Adrián García Bogliano’s Late Phases was the second film shown at the Toronto After Dark’s Werewolf Night and the third and last film of the day.
What can I tell you about it? Imagine the following situation, if you will: you are a blind elderly man. You find yourself in a retirement residence surrounded by people who just want to go through a nice and steady rhythm of life. You deal with younger people patronizing: wanting to help you, but not really spend time or actually listen to you. Your only friend is your seeing-eye dog Shadow. Most of the residential people you meet generally keep to themselves, but a few are friendly.
Then one night some creature, some giant beast, comes in and starts killing. And no one knows what it is or does anything about it.
Your name is Ambrose and you are also a former soldier: an American veteran of Vietnam. And while you did some terrible things during that war, while you might have failed to protect life and, indeed, took many lives, you just can’t sit back and do nothing. This is the premise of Late Phases. Do not expect Bubba-hotep here: aside from occasionally laughing at Ambrose’s curmudgeonly smart-ass remarks, there neither fame nor comedy in this story, though the heroism is definitely real.
The first part of the film establishes Ambrose, played by Nick Damici, along with his son Will and some of the other retirees. The werewolf is introduced relatively quickly, though never fully revealed until later. There is heartbreak almost immediately. The second part of the film, roughly, covers a month in which Ambrose finds out about the full moon the night of the attack and without any hesitation believes in and knows exactly what he is dealing with. This is a refreshing element in a werewolf or supernatural film: where it takes the protagonist a while to accept that the supernatural even exists. But Ambrose, if nothing else, is no-nonsense and right to the point.
He mostly knows his enemy. And what he doesn’t know, he slowly and circumspectly, begins to find out. It is so tempting to compare Late Phases with David Hayter’s Wolves: especially as the latter was shown right after the former. Whereas Wolves takes the trope of the werewolf movie and teenage life and subverts their forms into something else, Bogliano fits into the trope of werewolf horror and adds dramatic elements of human relationships and humanity into the mix. Ambrose is an aging man who has lost his sight but retains enough of his senses and military training to fight this werewolf. And the werewolf in this film is not something misunderstood. It is an angry, hungry, twisted thing that rips off its human flesh at a full moon. And it’s human form is not that much better. In fact, I’d say that if there is one thing Wolves and Late Phases has in common it’s the idea that sometimes the human element can be even worse than the animal element in a werewolf.
It takes a far amount time to play the who-done-it and who-is-it werewolf part of the film but after Ambrose gets some silver bullets made and figures out that someone else requested some before him, Bogliano gets right into who that werewolf is. At same time, for all of Ambrose’s careful planning he is still blind and can’t perceive everything going on around him. While his lack of sight is supplemented by improved other senses, he doesn’t always know when someone is looking at him, or if they can see something he doesn’t.
Again, what I think really brings this movie into the fore is, like Wolves, another reference to The Lone Ranger. This time Ambrose talks with a gunsmith about the character and his silver bullets. They also talk about how the ranger doesn’t shoot to kill. Ambrose is unromantic and while he might want to save lives like the Ranger he is not hesitant over doing what he’s spent his whole life doing.
The film ends much like Ambrose has lived a good portion of his life. There is gore, and blood, and ubiquitous evil and animal rage, hypocrisy, and ultimately honour. You get to see a widower put on his ring, a man honouring his dog, and a soldier shooting some motherfucking werewolf monsters with silver bullets, and a rare and heartfelt message left on an answering machine for his son.
Perhaps Ambrose becomes a hero late in his life. But he does his best to save his fellow retired neighbours from a fate worse than death, and he does what he has to do. I couldn’t recommend this movie highly enough. The full moon always rises, but it won’t always be night.