Though they've never been my favourite horror antagonists, werewolves have gotten a bad shake over the past few years. Showing up as little more than an excuse to get overly buff Magic Mike meatheads to shed their shirts and howl in teen-horror fare like Twilight and True Blood, it's hard out there for a lycanthrope.Breaking modern werewolf conventions at every turn, Late Phases is a somewhat fresh take on the moonlit creature-feature. Moving the setting to an unlikely one — a retirement home — and casting Nick Damici (Stake Land) as a blind former veteran who's the only one to detect that things are going awry with his fellow residents is a brave decision on the part of Spanish director Adrian Garcia Bogliano. In addition, the pacing of the film is a little bit slower than one might expect, but it works here.
Late Phases begins with Ambrose (Damici) being committed to this old-folks community by his son (Ethan Embry). Damici comes off as a Charles Bronson type, a type he very much plays into as the film wears on, and seems out of place in a charming way here. In another trend-bucking decision, the film wastes no time in showing you the werewolf as Ambrose's neighbor and his beloved dog are brutally slain on his very first night. However, you don't see much of the creature again for the bulk of the movie. Instead, we get a film about a man completely obsessed with taking this creature apart. Ambrose purchases silver bullets (remember that he's blind and this causes some concern around the town), and commits to a training regimen that wouldn't be out of place in a Rocky movie (if Apollo Creed turned into a feral dog at midnight).
While this is all going on, there are some issues with the way this community is presented. No one seems as concerned as they should be with the violence that befalls them, especially the police, and as much as I'd like to attribute this to a larger statement about how the elderly are ignored and cast aside, I think it's more a matter of a tonal misstep in the writing.
When it finally rears its head again, the werewolf creature design and the rendering of the transformation leaves a lot to be desired in a movie as thoughtful and serious as Late Phases is presented by that point. This is one of my quarrels with werewolf movies in general — they’re so rarely shown as anything but goofy — and though Late Phases does a better job than some, it’s still asking for a major suspension of disbelief for a film that's taken a more measured tone up to that point. Ultimately, though, Late Phases is a perfect antidote to the common werewolf film, and a declarative statement that growing old doesn't mean you have to give up your silver bullets.