The LATE PHASES (2014) of the EXPONENTIALly Growing BABADOOK

Okay. This post is mainly going to be about Adrián García Bogliano’s Late Phases, but some housekeeping has to be done, so let’s get that out of the way first.

dook dook

Last week I had the opportunity to see Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook on the big screen. I love the ease of ordering movies VOD, but I wish there were more opportunities to see films like this outside of the festival circuit.

The thing about The Babadook is: everyone is right about The Babadook.

It’s really great. A metaphorical horror film that can be engaged at whatever level the audience wants, high or low, and still be both incredibly satisfying and entertaining.

Why am I not saying any more? Well, frankly, I feel like other people have said it first and said it better. It’s a movie that deserves the positive buzz and one I wish had a wide release.

Either rent The Babadook or track down a theater showing it. Seeing this film is basically your civic duty as a horror fan.

The second piece of business on the agenda is strictly self-promotional. I’ve been getting some good press for Exponential and it would be a shame not to link it all over.

First up, I did two interviews to promote the book. There was one with Bizarro’s favorite son, Gabino Iglesias, over at Bizarro Central. Gabino asked some pretty cutting questions. He came at me all Barbra Walters cagey and sinewy and tried to ask questions that would shake me to my core. I hung tough, though. He even bullied me into taking pictures with my shelves, so click over there if you want to see that.

And then there was a far more cordial discussion with Gef Fox where I ended up talking about bad writing advice when asked to give good writing advice.

The reviews for Exponential have started to trickle in as well.

Today there was a great one posted up at Ain’t It Cool News by Blu Gilliand, who used to cover my stuff over on FearNet (RIP). HorrorNewsNet’s Sean Leonard also got in on the action here. And Craig McNeely’s blog The Pulp Chronicler just finished up a month-long review retrospective of my stuff leading up to Exponential, which Craig calls “Cesare’s best book to date, hands down.”

I’ll take it.

Okay. Business done. Late Phases.

phases bannner

The difficult thing about writing up Late Phases* is: if you’re anything like me, all you will ever need is the elevator pitch.

“Late Phases is Rolling Thunder meets Blind Fury meets The Howling.”

I mean, do I even have to continue with this charade of a review? Can you honestly tell me that you didn’t just tab over to amazon, Vudu or itunes to give them your money?

There was a lot I didn’t know about Late Phases going in, but the opening credits got me way more excited than the good word of mouth.

First there was the reveal that Tom Noonan was in this movie. And who doesn’t love Noonan? And the next was that it was from director Adrián García Bogliano. I greatly enjoyed his last film, Here Comes the Devil, and I ended up liking this one even more.

Late Phases begins with our hero, Ambrose (Nick Damici), a recent widower, being moved into a retirement community (think less rest home, more gated housing development). You see, Ambrose is blind and he’s got a strained relationship with his son (and, of course, his son’s wife). But don’t feel too bad for the guy, he’s an army vet who served five years in Vietnam and, outside of the loss of eyesight and his going hearing: he’s kept in pretty great shape.

When Ambrose and his guide dog are attacked on their first night in their new home, finding and killing the creature that tried to kill him becomes Ambrose’s new raison d’être.

It’s worth mentioning that Damici looks and sounds so much like Charles Bronson that, once it becomes clear that his character will be soon doling out justice, his appearance (that mustache!) can be categorized as deliberate homage.

It’s not really a spoiler to let you know that the creature Ambrose has a Death Wish for is a werewolf. Bogliano doesn’t play that piece of information like a reveal, and he lets us see a good bit of the creature during the first attack, mere minutes into the movie.

What is played as a mystery is the identity of the beast. Which is not to say that Late Phases is a tightly plotted who-done-it. No, there is no werewolf break in this film, but the final reveal will satisfy viewers well enough. It’s what happens after that reveal, the third act, where most of the gory fun is anyway.

Unlike Here Comes the Devil, Late Phases takes a much more earnest effort at trying to color inside the lines of its chosen sub-genres (the werewolf film and man on a mission flick, natch). Unlike Here Comes the Devil, Late Phases is no kitchen sink horror movie.

Late Phases feels comfortable in its own (hirsute) skin. There is restraint, character work and patience on display and even when the plot presses up against abject silliness (which it admittedly does quite a few times, especially in the second half), Bogliano and his actors seem to know that they’re reaching and keep a steady hand on the throttle.

The final monster showdown is satisfying, not only in its blocking and cinematic execution, but because we know the stakes. We know that even though Ambrose is a badass, he’s also completely blind.

To add to the film’s attraction there’s also a really great werewolf transformation scene, presented through clever editing and practical effects rather than an abundance of CGI.

Less impressive are the werewolves themselves. The bipedal creatures have a cool animatronic face (ala American Werewolf in London), pointy The Howling-esque ears, but may look a little too man-in-suit (only Cursed is called to mind, unfortunately) for some.

I kinda dig the effect of the not-wonderful werewolves, though.

The look of the creatures let us know that: yes, Late Phases may be a far above average written, acted, and shot monster movie, but it also isn’t some simpering post-modern revisionist monster movie that’s afraid to go the full monty when it comes to its werewolves.

No, Late Phases goes very far out of its way to deliver the goods. So far that the greatest iron lung gag since The Big Lebowski and Larry Fessenden selling headstones become just icing on the cake.

*I can’t tell if amazon is right or not, but they list the film’s full title as Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf.  I absolutely refuse to refer to the film by that name. Late Phases, full stop, is such a great title. Adding the “Night of the Lone Wolf” subtitle is a crime.

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