Damici Makes "Late Phases" Howl Review

Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf stars an appropriately gruff, grizzled and grumpy Nick Damici as Ambrose McKinley, a blind Vietnam War vet who has just moved to the picturesque retirement community of Crescent Bay following the death of his wife. Accompanied by his trusty seeing eye dog, Shadow--the only living thing that he seems to approve of--McKinley proceeds to settle down and wait for death to come for him, even going so far as to ask his son to drive him to shop for tombstones. However, after the one neighbor to greet him kindly dies in a gruesome late-night attack, and brave Shadow meets a similar, tragic fate, McKinley is forced to come out of retirement and be the one thing he was ever truly good at: a soldier.

It turns out that despite it’s pretty appearance, Crescent Bay has an ugly secret--once a month, something monstrous comes out of the forest at the edge of the community and attacks the inhabitants. It appears to be similar to a wild animal, but something about it seems a tad more otherworldly. Everyone else in Crescent Bay seems to have come to terms with these weird, excessively violent occurrences, but McKinley immediately vows to take the creature down despite the lack of support--and of course, his lack of eyesight.

Damici’s performance is the toughened-to-leather heart of the film. Even when McKinley is being a truly righteous bastard to everyone around him, you not only like him but sympathize with him. When his nosy, stuck-up neighbors get him kicked off of the church shuttle due to his use of a shovel as a cane--not to mention his general attitude of not giving a damn about any of them--you all the more root for him to take down the beast and prove that despite his various eccentricities, he is the most truly human character in Crescent Bay. His rocky relationship with his clean-cut, conventional son (Ethan Embry), who feels as though his father was never truly there for him growing up, also provides the film with more emotional heft than one would expect. The plot feels a bit rushed and some of the other characters rather underdeveloped, but every time Damici is onscreen he will distract you from these shortcomings.

The film’s Blu-ray packaging boasts about its use of old school practical effects--something I am generally a sucker for. Unfortunately, while the effects used to portray the transformation process are pretty awesomely grotesque, the fully formed creatures themselves are kind of silly. They do look impressive and well-made, as far as practical effects go; they just don’t look very scary. I think part of the problem is that the full creature is revealed far too early in the film; monsters are often more effective when revealed in shadowy, nightmarish snippets, as though they are lingering just out of the corner of your eye as opposed to right smack dab in front of your face. Additionally, the high-definition picture doesn’t do the low-fi effects any favors. The film works best when it focuses on tension as opposed to terror. Thanks to Damici’s performance, McKinley ends up being a far more intimidating creature than the werewolves he is fighting, and Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf ends up being far more about the man than the monster.


The Blu-ray release of Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf includes commentary by director Adrian Garcia Bogliano, making of and FX featurettes, and the film’s trailer.

"Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf" is on sale March 10, 2015 and is not rated. Horror. Directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano. Written by Eric J. Stolze. Starring Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Nick Damici.

Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 


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