Late Phases, also known as Night of the Wolf, is definitely an unusual werewolf movie, I have to say. At some points, it almost seems like it would be an underrated gem, but unfortunately the obnoxious characters let it down.
Late Phrases follows a grumpy blind veteran called Ambrose, who is dropped off by his son Will (Ethan Embry – Cheap Thrills) into his new home in a secluded retirement community called Crescent Bay. On his first night there, he is attacked by a large animal. The residents and the police blame it on wild animals, which are apparently an ever-growing problem in this small town. But Ambrose believes there is something more sinister going on. Taking matters into his own hands, he arms up and waits for the next attack.
As I said I was a bit in two minds with Late Phases. At first, I was really intrigued by the characters and the story, but I feel that they take the cankerous nature of Ambrose a bit too far. At first, I felt sympathetic towards him, but he seems to go out of his way to upset everyone with ableist and racist slurs. The neighbours were annoying but not enough to warrant this type of wrath.
I feel like they could have made him isolated without having this inflammatory language. In the context of this film, it just seemed quite unnecessary and a rather cheap way to have him shunned. But not only does that end up alienating the audience, but leaves us with a rather limp and one-dimensional character that we are meant to be rooting for. Apart from being a grumpy veteran, with a potty mouth, there is not a lot to grab the audience’s sympathies with Ambrose.
Unfortunately, there is a distinct lack of tension or suspense in the middle part of Late Phases. Even though the first and last attacks were thrilling and bloody, the rest just kinda falls flat. Setting it over a month in this film feels like a gigantic misstep in my opinion, as there is nothing really that fills that gap that is worthwhile. We do get Ambrose investigating the locals and gearing up, but his clearly stated safety removes any lurking danger that would tantalize and tide over the audience.
Late Phases does try to add a bit of heart and emotional complexity to the story by focusing on the terse relationship between Ambrose and his son, Will. But with the unsympathetic character that is Ambrose, we don’t have any real yearn to want them to heal their rifts, so the ending, which probably in other circumstances would feel bittersweet, instead is rather hollow.
With that aside, I will say the rest of Late Phases is decent enough, and it is definitely one of the better contenders in the werewolf genre in terms of visuals. The film does not have a large budget but with its constraints the werewolves are scary enough to do the job. But it isn’t without its more dicey moments. On occasions, it does look just like a man in a suit when seen from afar, but these are few and far between thankfully.
They definitely lean on the more human side of werewolves with a lot of upwards walking and less pronounced snouts. Nevertheless, any criticisms can be pushed aside with their juicy brutal transformation sequence that does not disappoint at all. You don’t get the classic bone-breaking visuals, but there is enough skin-ripping action to please werewolf enthusiasts.
Putting that aside however, in the end it feels like they were trying to use the gimmick of blindness to add a fresh perspective to the werewolf sub-genre. When used right, it can add to the horror, creating a dark and ominous atmosphere, that allows the viewer to experience the horror not only visually but aurally. Late Phases unfortunately fails to capitalize on that, that it is often barely a deciding factor in any of the film’s more harrowing moments.
Speaking of the ending, this is another part of Late Phases, like its transformation scene, that manages to not miss its mark. Things put into motion earlier in this film play out in a way that is ultimately satisfying to watch. Regardless of its wishy-washy attempts at emotional exploration, the final battle is as bloody and gruesome as one could hope for.
Late Phases won’t become a defining moment in werewolf pop culture, but it is an earnest attempt at werewolf special effects and gore. It’s just a shame the story could not live up to it.