Archive for April, 2014

Late Phases – Adrian Garcia Bogliano – 2014

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2014 by bookofdread

 

 

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Growing old can be a real bitch. In Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s latest film, Late Phases, literally so. Septuagenarian Ambrose is being shunted off to a nursing home by his son Will. It’s not that Will doesnt love his old man, it’s simply that Ambrose is a blind, cantankerous Vet whose disposition is more than a handful. This act is indicative of Will’s lack of interest in his father’s golden years, he is essentially taking him somewhere to die. All is not as it seems in the small retirement community Will deposits Ambrose. There are animal attacks frequently in this neighborhood, and the police exemplify impotence in dealing with the killings. They even ruminate that because the victims are so old, it’s barely a loss anyway, with these folks being so near the end of their lives. This hints at the theme of the film, finding faith in ones own ability even in a Late Phase of ones life.

The tone of this film falls somewhere between Dante’s the Howling and that of a tough old bastard yarn directed by Michael Winner, of which there are many. I frequently thought of Bronson’s Paul Kersey, however, Kersey is a man pushed over the edge by circumstance. Ambrose lost his sight to war and is all to familiar with violence and the consequences thereof. He has seen bloodshed and when a neighbor, who shows him a kindness, (and sadly, Ambroses dog), are killed in an animal attack, Ambrose takes it upon himself to solve/eliminate the animal threat.

Since this is a genre film, we know the conceit going in. This is a werewolf film. The monster is subtly on the poster so we know, there will be some sweet wolf-out action. The film keeps it pretty subtle though, there only being two full moons in the film. Ambrose has time to both figure out what’s going on and prepare for the next attack. In this second act we are treated to a series of red herrings, a guessing game of who’s the wolf. This part stretches the suspense out to the breaking point, but when the tension breaks we are treated to one of the all time great wolf-outs the genre has to offer. I wouldn’t be so bold as to reveal the stories secrets, but trust me when I say that when we get there it’s a fantastic moment punctuated by a seamless, cut-free transformation sequence that had the audience in rapturous applause!

Nick Damici deserves special credit for his performance as Ambrose. Considering he’s likely about two decades too young for the role, both the makeup and the performance do the story justice, and his age was never a concern of mine while watching the film. He plays a man’s man, a warrior and strategist, all while effectively affecting blindness. Ethan Embry continues his walk of awesome in the indie world. Will seems like a guy who maybe used to have a tough exterior like his father, but has been beaten, or cajoled into a form of modern submission by his fiance, who has little interest in the welfare of Ambrose. Larry Fessenden, Lance Guest, and Tom Noonan all give phenomenal support in the varying roles they have as the figures who round out the community. Noonan is especially benevolent and reassuring as the priest that smokes cigarettes with the congregation outside of his church. His role feels very nice, considering he’s the Red Dragon. It was a lovely turn for him, and my favorite character in the film.

Any werewolf fan wants to know, yeah, I know there is a story, I’m sure it’s wonderful, how are the frickin’ werewolves? The answer is the creature effects in the film are 100% practical and they are amazing! The creature looks like a cross between the classic Rick Baker Howling werewolf and oddly enough reminded me of the Fire-Dancers from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. This is in no way a slight. The effect is that of terror mixed with wonder. Bob Kurtzman was not content to show us the same beasts we’ve seen a million times, opting instead to create something iconic and new. I was smiling the whole time a beast was on screen, while still terrified. All the best monsters have that going for them, you hate the threat, but you love the monster.

One of the most fantastic decisions in the film, and this is a bit of a spoiler, however it must be mentioned in any serious discussion of the film, is the choice to never infect the protagonist. In every single werewolf film I can think of, the lead at one point or another joins the furry brood. This is a him versus them story intended to reflect the capablity of Ambrose and his power to keep the wolves from his door. Most werewolf films are a kind of Jekyll and Hyde tale, a tragedy that a good person can fall slave to the vices of animalistic lust or violence. Not so with Late Phases. Ambrose is absolutely the moral center of the film and every choice he makes is one the audience empathizes with and roots for.

Struggling with the trials of age is something we will all have to deal with. As our children create their own lives they find less and less room for their parents in the busy modern world. Late Phases is really about how we identify ourselves in these golden years as the world turns and leaves us behind. Will we go gently into that good night, or will we board up the windows and arm ourselves against the harsh realities that encroach despite our fragile state. Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s latest would have us never give up, never stop loving those who may have stopped realizing how much they love us, and never acquiesce to a world whose values and norms have left us behind. Sometimes, it is not until those Late Phases that we can show the world around us those colors inside that were hidden, that there is a place and a need for those men who would stand between doom and those incapable of protecting themselves.

There will always be a need for a Mans man. Whether it’s Burt Lancaster or Charlie Bronson, or Nick Damici, it’s great to see a character from that other time, where everyone wasn’t so liberal that they forget about sacrifice and consequence. Ambrose may be blind but it’s Will who can’t see what an incredible and powerful a figure his father is. If you ever found your father gruff and tough, maybe he didn’t like to give hugs or has trouble saying, “I love you son”, this film will make you think of him. Hopefully afterward you’ll call that guy and have a chat about the things he likes, guns, football, war movies and WEB Griffin novels. Don’t forget that these guys are from another time, a time where being a man was about more than paying your bills, having a wife and keeping up with the Joneses. These men had to fight for what they had, not in a nationalistic way, but an internal spiritual struggle that proved they deserved a place in the world. Late Phases is a homily to the values of this passed generation and we should listen carefully and try not to forget it.

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