Werewolf horror movies…good ones are few & far between. An American Werewolf in London? A classic. The Howling? A decent effort. Dog Soldiers? The best of a more modern take on the hairy beasts.
Werewolf movies are often boorish affairs with a heavy splash of cheese; it’s hard to make a walking wolf scary & far too many opt for CGI.
Thankfully Late Phases bucks a lot of the bad werewolf movie trends by focusing on character development & pushing the werewolf to the background to play a supporting role.
Ambrose is a blind Vietnam war veteran who is moving into a retirement community alongside his dog, Shadow. Ambrose is a bluntly speaking man who is instantly likable. His manner is of a man who has seen enough bullshit in the world so has little interest in dealing with it anymore.
His relationship with his son, Will is clearly rocky & there are things unsaid between them. Will & his wife are anxious to get Ambrose into the community so they can get on with their lives which Ambrose recognises.
The movie’s pacing is incredible as that night Ambrose’s neighbour is attacked by a werewolf (well hidden in shadows) & left in a pool of her own blood & guts. It’s an impressively graphic scene that quickly moves from her house to Ambrose’s. Being a vet he has weapons but is no match for the huge beast. It’s thanks to Shadow that Ambrose isn’t killed but sadly the dog doesn’t make it.
The next morning the carnage is discovered by the movers.
Talking to the police & others Ambrose discovers that these attacks are frequent at this community because of its proximity to the woods. Suspected to be wild dogs, the general attitude seems to be that it’s an unfortunate accident & that the senior citizens should stay indoors at night.
You get this constant impression throughout that no-one really cares about the elderly & even their children see them as a burden.
Ambrose suspects a werewolf & realises he has a month (the next full moon) to prepare for the werewolf’s return. Does it live in the woods or is it closer to home then even Ambrose thinks?
Not only a werewolf horror but a mysterious one as well. The full reveal is saved for the final 20 minutes & ties the movie together nicely. As Ambrose’s paranoia increases yours will as well. Is it that guy? Is it her? Maybe they’re all werewolves!
The movie does choose to keep it simple & is better for it. It allows more focus on the community & Ambrose which makes you actually care about the final scenes. Ambrose’s behaviour begins to rub certain members of the community up the wrong way & it is amusing to see how the truth gets embellished as the movie goes on.
One of the best things about this movie is the total lack of CGI. Yes, the werewolves are not CGI & look really cool. Some might think cheap but I see them as a throwback to how earlier werewolves looked (more human-like movements). There is an excellent transformation scene that was definitely inspired by American Werewolf in London.
The movie is 80+ minutes long but less than 20 of them actually has a werewolf on screen. The rest of the time is given to few characters of the community as we deal with the darker subjects of war, suicide & faith.
Not to say that the movie is faultless though…there are a few things that happen throughout that are deliberately designed to throw you off the scent but they don’t really. A scene in Ambrose’s backyard involving a black-clocked figure left me confused & never really led anywhere also.
Small complaints for a werewolf movie that actually is both interesting & fun to watch.