Late Phases


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Late Phases
"Late Phases contains one of the best portrayals of a blind person ever put on screen."

Retirement communities are a curious modern phenomenon; in the US they have a culture all their own. In one sense they're places where people go to wait to die, but in another they can be like college campuses as strangers get together at leisure, with all the sex and drinking and petty politics that brings about. Younger people don't tend to grasp the latter aspect - perhaps they prefer to look away - and in this film Will (Ethan Embry) seems distinctly uncomfortable that his father Ambrose (Nick Damici)'s first act in his new home is to flirt with a neighbour. But then, Will is uncomfortable about his father in general, troubled by a difficult past and by his inability to deal with the older man's blindness. Ambrose, a former soldier, values his independence, something that Will just doesn't seem to understand.

Horror has often led the way in breaking down social barriers and Late Phases contains one of the best portrayals of a blind person ever put on screen. Whilst it would have been good to see a blind person in the role, Damici, who acknowledges that no voluntary, temporary blindness could ever really let him know what it's like to be blind, inhabits the part fully. Most importantly, he gives us a fully rounded character - as far as Ambrose is concerned, his disability is just something to be worked around, and he demands the same respect as anybody else. He's the sort of person who easily rubs others up the wrong way, but Damici effortlessly keeps the viewer on side. Importantly, as the film makes clear early on, Ambrose is a lot less vulnerable than many of his neighbours, including younger, sighted people. Intelligence, determination and organisation more than compensate for lack of sight.

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The above is fortunate, as Ambrose has at least one neighbour with serious problems - of the sort that become apparent when the moon is full. Here blindness might be an advantage for audience members as the werewolf effects are the weakest part of the film, but a serious effort has been made on a low budget. It's unlucky for the lycanthropes that their habitual howling makes it easy for Ambrose to tell where they are, but this only does so much to alleviate the threat. Director Bogliano uses careful camerawork to keep the audience in Ambrose's position for the fist part of the film - sometimes unsure what's happening close by, sometimes acutely aware of things that others assume he's missing.

Other aspects of the film are open about its B-movie status, with security guards passing off the brutal killings in the the community as "animal attacks" and with something sinister apparently happening in the local church. There's some cheerfully cheesy acting from supporting performers, the comic aspects of this balancing well against Ambrose's dry wit. There are the usual low budget problems at a technical level, with rather flat lighting and with a soundscape that sometimes lacks depth, but overall this s a bold little film elevated by a powerful central performance. It's a treat for horror fans tired of watching screaming teenagers and a long overdue recognition of the dramatic potential inherent in age and disability in an action context. More like this please.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2014
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Late Phases packshot
A retirement community is threatened by werewolves.

Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano

Starring: Nick Damici, Ethan Embry, Tom Noonan, Tina Louise, Rutanya Alda

Year: 2014

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2014

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