Review: Late Phases (2014, Glass Eye Pix)

“THE HUNT IS ON.”

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Category: Werewolf
Directed by:
Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Written by: Eric Stolze
Starring: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Tom Noonan, Lance Guest
Music: Wojciech Golczewski
Cinematography: Ernesto Herrera

Crescent Bay Retirement Community’s newest tenant, blind Vietnam War vet Ambrose (Damici, Stake Land), survives a vicious attack his first night at his new home. Although it appears that attacks like this that have led to the death of various pets and the occasionally resident, supposedly caused by wild animals, aren’t out of the ordinary; Ambrose is weary. Instinct leading him to believe a werewolf is behind the attacks, he prepares himself for the next full moon.

Late Phases really hit all the right notes in my opinion, perfectly balancing suspense, humor and action with a superb cast and some excellent cinematography. Nick Damici doesn’t even come to mind when Ambrose is on screen, he became a whole different person with that role. Not only is he believable appearing blind, he also pulls off being quite a few years his senior. Aside from his acting, the make up work is incredible. There’s no second guessing that he’s a blind, old curmudgeon. Bonus points for dolling him up to look like a weathered Charles Bronson.

Stolze’s script keeps the film moving at a smooth pace, and offers an ample amount of humor relied on Ambrose’s no-bullshit, brash persona. Despite being a bit of a prick, Ambrose is a very likable character and easy to stand behind. His shaky relationship with his son Will (Ethan Embry, Cheap Thrills) plays a strong role in the film which helps to flesh out Damici’s character without adding any dragged out, sappy moments. There’s some great dialogue between Ambrose and Father Roger (Tom Noonan, Manhunt) , one of the few people in the community with a level head who can uphold a somewhat amicable relationship with Ambrose. The rest of the supporting cast for the most part consists of various other members of the community who aren’t so keen on the former solider’s antisocial behavior. There’s also some cameo appearances from Twin Peaks alumni Dana Ashbrook and Glass Eye Pix owner/indie horror stalwart Larry Fessenden.

Most genre fans will be happy to know that most of the effects are old fashion, practical FX work. The werewolves look a bit schlocky, but there’s nothing like someone in a suit to portray a monster. The transformation featured some great special effects work, but the scene also held one my few gripes with this film; the tired cliche of a character watching this happen in awe rather than run away. Seeing a werewolf in the flesh would be sweet but I think most anyone would haul ass out of there. Another thing that irked me was the fact that these wildly gory “animal attacks” were happening quite regularly without really drawing much attention or concern. This may have been an attempt at humor but it didn’t really fit the tone, were as a film like Bad Milo!, with it’s over the top cartoony humor and blatantly ignorant characters, featured a similar running gag that fit more comfortably within the context of the story.

Regardless of it’s few very downfalls, this indie flick was definitely one of my favorite selections from 2014 and a staple in the werewolf sub genre. Highly recommended: it’s great story, wry humor, and tense moments will be sure to even entertain those outside of horror fandom. How can a movie about a cranky, blind vet facing off against werewolves not intrigue you?

8/10

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Review: The Babadook (2014, Causeway Films)

“YOU CAN’T GET RID OF THE BABADOOK.”

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Category: Dark Fantasy, Psychological
Directed by:
Jennifer Kent

Written by: Jennifer Kent
Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman
Music: Jed Kurzel
Cinematography: Radek Ladczuk

The Babadook is an Australian horror film about widowed Amelia who struggles to deal with her son Samuel’s erratic behavior and obsession with an imaginary boogeyman. Soon the line between reality and fable is blurred as strange occurrences begin to plague Amelia. The Babadook has met acclaim throughout it’s festival run from critics and viewers alike, and I must say the film lives up to the hype.

Lead Essie Davis does a fantastic job portraying a beaten down mother who’s carrying far too much emotional baggage, it’s real easy to feel for her considering how wacked her child is. Samuel drove me nuts in the first third of the movie, but young Noah Wiseman’s acting chops come through as the movie goes on, his character gaining sympathy after showing honest concern for his mother once things start getting weird. These two really steal show as most of the events of the film unfold in their household, the whole story weighing on the mother-son dynamic.

Kent creates an excellent dark atmosphere throughout her film, I’m a sucker for movies that blend horror with fable/urban myth themes. While I was a little underwhelmed with how the Babadook itself looked, but it was still a creepy flick with it’s well executed less-is-more approach complimented by a minimalistic, eerie score. That pop-up was fucking sweet too, even if for some reason you didn’t like the movie, you gotta admit that book was tits. Which is exactly why I ordered one. The film hits some pretty dark territory at certain points, the themes of mental illness and loss of control often being more haunting than the actions of a boogeyman. In the end you can choose the view the story as an allegory or as a literal horror story, or however way you wish to think of it. I like when there’s some loose ends after a movie is over, it’s good food for thought.

Overall, a great fantasy/psychological horror film rife with flawless acting and atmosphere that will surely suck you into it’s enticing story. All you have to do is get over Sam’s obnoxious and dreadful outbursts in the beginning of the film. If William Friedkin, director of  The Exorcist, calls this the scariest film ever made; It’s got to have some merit.

9/10

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