At FrightFest there is always a film that takes you by surprise, confounding your expectations and turning your preconceptions on their head and this year that film was Late Phases.
The story may seem strange at first as we are introduced to Ambrose (Stake Land and We Are What We Are’s Nick Damici) a stubborn, grumpy and blind war vet who we see is moving into a gated community packed full of old people akin to him in age but not temperament or spirit.
Left alone by his son who he struggles to get along with and only his faithful dog for company the cantankerous geezer prepares for his first night amongst the other retired residents however as a full moon rises noises from outside rouse Ambrose as suddenly chaos comes hurtling into his neighbors home brutally tearing her apart.
Confronting the giant blood thirsty beast and losing his canine companion in the process Ambrose barely escapes with his life but when the police arrive the very next day they treat the whole thing with disdain telling him it is just another of the many dog attacks that have been taking place frequently in the quiet compound.
Angered by their attitude and refusing to obey the cops instructions or the advice of his family and those around him Ambrose decides to take matters into his own hands preparing, training and arming himself to fight this monster when he believes it will return, at the next full moon.
Carried by a stunning and powerful performance from Nick Damici Late Phases is so much more than a simple horror film. It draws on the deep drama and emotional turmoil of a man coming to terms with his mortality and attempting to right the wrongs of his past.
What is interesting is that Ambrose isn’t that likable at first, as he alienates everyone he meets with his aggression, including the gaggle of busy body ladies who attempt to welcome him and the local priest Father Rodger (played by Manhunter and The House of the Devil) star Tom Noonan.
After the attack we realise that the retired inhabitants are literally expendable in the eyes of the local police who treat the horrific murder as a joke. Behind this we see that the film is a great analogy for the marginalization of the old who are ignored, abused and literally left to die in the scenic solitude of the pretty prison Ambrose and so many others inhabit.
In Late Phases however the wizened war vets refusal to go gentle and instead rage against the dying of the light with homemade traps and some big guns making him a great anti-hero who we root for even in the face of impossible odds given the ferocity of the beast he faces.
Late Phases is filled with as many laughs as tears and the film perfectly balances the multitude of elements it takes on. Its strength is its subtlety and simplicity and massive credit must be given to director Adrián García Bogliano along with scribe Eric Stolze who penned the brilliant nostalgic teenage action horror Under the Bed.
Late Phases only weakness is the special effects especially the creature creation and make up which sadly doesn’t always live up to the quality of the rest of the film however given the stories originality and the excellent script and acting it is easily over looked.
Part Bubba Ho-Tep, part Rambo, part The Howling Late Phases is a highly inventive twist on the genre and a brilliant demonstration of how horror can be used to delve into and dissect so much more than just bodies.