Friday, November 21, 2014

Werewolves, anyone? Genre clunker Adrián García Bogliano's LATE PHASES hits theaters

"A masterpiece of the werewolf genre," as its poster proclaims? Only if you're totally unfamiliar with the werewolf genre and have never seen The Howling, Dog SoldiersAn American Werewolf in London (or even its silly-fun follow-up, in Paris) and any number of other fine werewolf films, could you possibly be taken in by this trivial pursuit that seems about as arbitrary and as clunkily put together as a genre movie can be. Despite a fine lead performance from Nick Damici (two photos below), as a blind Viet Nam vet stuck into a retirement community on the edge of town by his uncaring son (Ethan Embry), LATE PHASES mostly sucks, playing fast and loose with the usual werewolf tropes and making too little sense on too many levels.

As directed by Spaniard Adrián García Bogliano (pictured at left), quite far afield from his more subtle and disturbing Here Comes  the Devil, this later movie has the director out of his element in more ways than mere locale. Forget that the carnage begins the very night that Damici's character moves into the community, and that he finds a very large wolf's nail embedded in a huge, scratched-out claw print in his wall (What? The people-in-charge of this community don't clean up the houses prior to renting them?), and that the town's police don't pay a lick of attention to all the deaths occurring here. Well, maybe they're involved? If only the movie had something more complex than gore and special effects on its tiny brain.

Actually, it does. And that thing is a father/son fallout that goes way back, and is even more clunkily handled than the rest of this sorry movie. As you might guess, I am a big werewolf fan, so I sat there during the screening, trying to make excuses for what was passing before my eyes until there were no more remaining.

Much is made of our blind man's sense of smell -- until it suddenly doesn't seem to matter any more. And although we see our werewolf almost from the second or third scene of the film, the movie appears to be mostly a mystery as to who, exactly, this werewolf is. We learn the answer too soon, which drains the little suspense that has built up.

Subsidiary characters exist only to move the movie along, though they are played by some enticing pros like Tom Noonan (below, right), Larry Fessenden and Tina Louise. And when we finally get the big-deal, human-to-werewolf transformation (in photo, bottom), it's far too little too late. The filmmaker and special effect maven -- Robert Kurtzman and crew -- do get points, however, for trying to make the wolf look something like the human it represents.

Finally, the film seems a super-clunky melding of worthless family-secrets drama and sub-par monster-horror. Barely releasable crap is my verdict.

Late Phases, from Dark Sky Films and running a too-long 95 minutes, opens today, Friday, November 21, in New York City at the IFC Center (once daily at 9:45pm) and maybe elsewhere, too.

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