TAD 2014: Late Phases
Ambrose is being put in a retirement home. A former solider, blind, and extremely crotchety, he is a handful for anyone to deal with. His odds of fitting in to the cozy community aren’t great, and that’s before he hears about the mysterious dog attack deaths that have been plaguing them. And when Ambrose is caught up in one of these incidents he doesn’t let something as simple as blindness stop him – he embarks on a month-long plan to trap and kill the werewolf stalking the community.
The film is a very interesting take on the genre. To my recollection the word werewolf is not spoken once, which subtly lends an air of the possible to the mystery. There are so many ways in which this film could have become goofy or slapstick, but its humor is actually fairly wry throughout. The subject matter is touched by a certain gravitas that may not have worked if Nick Damici’s portrayal of Ambrose wasn’t so believable. His preparations and traps are treated as Serious Business without devolving into Home Alone territory.
Late Phases is really a character drama at its heart. To me, if the film lacked anything in terms of content it would have been a greater exploration of his relationship with his son. But that just goes to show how engrossing the characters are, There is a werewolf on the loose but I just want the family to work out their differences!
Ambrose’s surliness and stubbornness are displayed early on, but as he interacts with more characters we slowly peel back his layers. He’s a scarred ‘Nam vet, in more ways than one. As he says, he returned from Vietnam with failing eyes and a growing blackness in his heart. He’s cut himself off from the world and wants nothing more than to be left alone. But nihilistic as he is, he still knows good from evil, and won’t let evil win while he still has breath in his body.
I would like to take a moment and acknowledge the rest of the cast. Ambrose’s son Will is played by TAD alum Ethan Embry (Cheap Thrills) and I just love this guy. He’s a perfect mix of beleaguerd, exhausted by his father’s boundless anger, and yet loving as well. I am also very impressed by Tom Noonan’s subtle turn as Father Roger. It was a great assembly of performers and they gave Damici and director Bogliano a create palate from which to work.
The effects of Late Phases are lesser than the big budget feature Wolves that came before it, but not enough so to take away form the story. The shaggy wolf-beasts are creepy enough, but since the story focuses so much more on the human lives affected by the attacks they are able to take a backseat (a la Jaws). I was sincerely impressed by the transformation sequence though – top notch work in terms of the practical effects and the cinematography. It captured both a sense of nostalgia for old-school wolf movies, as well as offering something new. I’ll try not to spoil you, but my favourite part (also the grossest) was the teeth explosion.
Late Phases was a very satisfying drama and I am so glad to have seen it at TAD. This is my first film by Bogliano, but I am intrigued by his style and I am sure that it won’t be the last.