DVD REVIEW: NIGHT OF THE WOLF: LATE PHASES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ADRIÁN GARCÍA BOGLIANO / SCREENPLAY: ERIC STOLZE / STARRING: NICK DAMICI, ETHAN EMBRY, LANCE GUEST, TINA LOUISE / RELEASE DATE: APRIL 20TH
Night of the Wolf: Late Phases is a rare breed amongst contemporary horror films. If young, pretty people are your preferred protagonists then you won’t find them here. Sixty would seem to be the average age of the characters that populate Adrián García Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil) tale of lupine terror.
And those who like their horror served loud and fast will become impatient with the films languorous and measured pace. This is a film that has more in common with The Station Agent than the Twilight Saga.
Blind army veteran and widower Ambrose McKinley (Damici) becomes the latest resident of Crescent Bay retirement community, and right away he shows his neighbours what an irascible and surly character he is. This isn’t a man that is feeling sorry for himself, he isn’t seeking pity or anyone’s sympathy, and he just wants to be left alone. He demonstrates just how capable he is of taking care of himself by expertly loading a revolver whilst pointing out that, yes, it’s even legal for a blind person to have a gun permit. And if McKinley was hoping for a peaceful first night in his new home, then his neighbour being savaged to death by a werewolf and subsequent attack on himself and his guide dog soon puts paid to that.
The police give the usual clichéd excuse that it’s a wild animal on the loose, but their facial expressions, that McKinley can’t see, lets us in on the fact that they have some inkling of what’s really stalking Crescent Bay. McKinley isn’t fooled though. He knows what he smelt and heard despite its impossible nature, and that it will return during the next full moon.
The film changes down a gear from this point and we follow McKinley as he tries to discover the identity of the werewolf. This is interspersed with scenes of him preparing for the inevitable showdown as well as going about his daily routines. He even joins a church. And it works as it allows the film to breathe, and in so doing it allows us to warm to this wittily acerbic pensioner.
Eric Stolze's script is stripped back and lean. There isn’t any superfluous dialogue but there are some very dry, darkly humorous lines. Nick Damici’s (Stake Land) performance as McKinley is a joy to watch. He adds a genuine sense of pathos to the character. This is a man that is tired of life. The scenes he shares with Father Roger (Tom Noonan), in which they discuss aging, sacrifice and his place in the world are worth the price of admission alone. The performances are so grounded and real that you forget that you’re watching a film. It’s as though you’re there with them and involved with the conversation.
Robert Kurtzman’s werewolf transformation scene is an outstanding display of practical effects and the creatures design is surely a nod to Joe Dante’s werewolves of The Howling.
Night of the Wolf: Late Phases is Bogliano’s first English-language film and he’s clearly having fun despite the limited budget, which isn’t at all evident it has to be said. Every shot counts and despite this being a character driven horror not once does feel likes it dragging such is Bogliano’s skill in getting the best out of his actors.
Definitely a howling success.