Continuing the theme from our last Netflix and Kill movie, The Devil’s Candy, here’s another Ethan Embry flick. Although that film left me cold, I still enjoyed his performance immensely. I’m glad to report that he doesn’t disappoint in Late Phases.
Nick (Stake Land) Damici stars as a tough-talking blind veteran who moves into a gated retirement community. Of course, what they don’t say in the brochure is that there’s a werewolf on the prowl eating the retirees. After the werewolf kills Damici’s dog, he prepares himself for the next encounter with the beast during the upcoming full moon.
Imagine Silver Bullet Meets Bubba Ho-Tep and that might give you an idea as to what to expect. Like Bubba Ho-Tep, it’s a pretty absurd premise, but it’s played more or less seriously. Tone is a tricky thing when you’re making a picture like this. I’m not saying it’s entirely successful, but if they went strictly for laughs, it wouldn’t have worked at all.
Damici’s performance helps immensely. Made up to be several years older than he really is (not unlike Bruce Campbell in Bubba Ho-Tep) and sporting a Robert DeNiro accent, he takes command of every scene he’s in. Even though he talks and acts tough, he has an air about him that seems genuine, and when he leaves his final voice message to his son (Embry), it’s actually kind of moving.
There’s a good blend of CGI and practical effects when it comes to the transformation scene. It’s a little reminiscent of Company of Wolves as the werewolf rips out of its human form’s skin. I just wish the final werewolf make-up looked better. The body looks OK, but the head looks like something out of a Howling sequel.
Things get off to a crackling start with a nifty werewolf attack. After that, the pacing sort of flags, and it takes a while for the film to gather its momentum again. However, Damici is so good that it holds your interest, even when things begin to get bogged down. The supporting cast is solid up and down the board. Larry Fessenden (who also produced) has a pretty funny role as a tombstone salesman, Tom Noonan has some good moments as the local priest, Dana Ashbrook is a hoot as an unscrupulous gunmaker, Tina Louise is still looking fine as one of Damici’s neighbors, and The Last Starfighter’s Lance Guest has a couple of memorable scenes as Noonan’s assistant.
It’s the dynamic between Damici and Embry that really resonates. The scene of Embry trying to help his dad while simultaneously putting up with his bullshit feel sincere enough. Honestly, the film spends too much time twiddling its thumbs in the second act, but it’s still worth watching just for Damici’s antics. He also gets all the best lines of the movie like: “I know more about firearms than you do about Pop Tarts!”
AKA: Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf. AKA: Night of the Wolf: Late Phases.