GOOD WEREWOLF MOVIES ARE few and far between. There are a whoooole lot of crappy, low budget ones with scripts that seem like they were written in a bathroom on a legal pad while the movie is filming.
Every once in a while, you come across a gem. One such movie is streaming on Amazon Prime Video right now and would make for a great Halloween evening flick in the dark with some popcorn. Be warned, this isn’t an end-to-end gore or action fest, it actually has a story, so be prepared to actually watch a movie.
Late Phases (2014) (which has apparently been retitled Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf) is about a blind Vietnam War veteran, Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici), who moves into a retirement community with his beloved service dog, Shadow, after the death of his wife. When his son helps him move in, we get the strong impression that Ambrose is considering suicide.
During his first night there, he hears his neighbor being ferociously attacked. The creature then comes for Ambrose, but he escapes with his life thanks to Shadow, a German Shepherd who is fatally wounded fighting off the monster. Dog lovers beware, this is worse than that scene in I Am Legend (2007), which also involved a Shepherd.
He later finds out that this isn’t the first attack his new community has experienced, and pets don’t tend last very long in the neighborhood either.
From what he heard and smelled, Ambrose begins to think what attacked him was more than just a vicious animal.
He spends the next month not so subtly investigating the people in his community, initially suspecting an odd local priest of being a werewolf. He also begins prepping his home to help him defend himself the best as he can.
Ambrose mostly leans on his Smith & Wesson Model 64 revolver for protection, though it does him little good during the first attack, as it is unloaded and the ammo is scattered across the floor before he knows what’s happening.
Later in the film, he shows just how adept he can be at firing the gun using only his hearing to aim. He also puts in what looks like a hunter’s hearing amplifier to help alert him to the creature’s presence as it approaches his home.
Ambrose also uses a Remington Model 700 without a scope (because what good would that do him?) as part of his home defense plan, positioned near a window with a good field of fire.
To round out his arsenal, Ambrose has a Mossberg 500 Cruiser pump action shotgun in 12 gauge.
When he decides that it’s indeed a werewolf plaguing the community and not just a wild animal, he goes to a man who runs a ramshackle gun shop out of an old house (back in the day these were much more common in certain areas). The owner agrees to make some silver bullets for Ambrose’s S&W revolver and the Model 700 rifle, and at least one silver-loaded shotgun shell.
For some reason, the gun shop owner tells Ambrose that shotgun shells take longer to make. Longer than what, he doesn’t say, but loading shotshells isn’t more complicated than loading rifle or handgun ammunition.
When Ambrose asks the man, who says silver bullets only make him think of the Lone Ranger, if anyone else ever asked him to make ammo like this, he reveals there had been one, and not to long ago. This leads Ambrose to positively identify the werewolf, but it might be too late.
I won’t ruin the ending for you, but it’s pretty freaking awesome, and you get to see him use all of the silver ammo he’s made, and then some.
The plot may sound pretty basic for a creature feature, but an outstanding performance from Damici as Ambrose and a stellar supporting cast that includes Ethan Embry as Ambrose’s adult son, Lance Guest, and Tom Noonan as Father Roger Smith along with, what I thought, was an excellent ending helps elevate this flick above the B-movie category. Additionally, it has an excellent script with great pacing, making it truly a diamond in the rough landscape of On Demand horror movies.
In my opinion, there have only been a few good werewolves movies in all of cinema. The old school black and white The Wolf Man (1941) is one of them. It’s 2010 remake had some great special effects…but it was not a great movie by any means. Somehow, it was boring even when the werewolf was tearing people apart. It used a mix of practical effects and CG…that just makes the CG more apparent.
There are a few gems in the 50s and 60s like I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957) and The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) that explored some interesting themes surrounding the idea of a man that transforms into a bloodthirsty beast.
The 1980s brought us some special effects masterpieces, like An American Werewolf in London (1981) (do not, under any circumstances, watch the 1997 sequel An American Werewolf in Paris), which holds up incredibly well, and The Howling (1981), which does not hold up at all.
The 1990s and early 2000s were cursed by excessive CG, with the exception of Wolf (1994) starring Jack Nicholson, which is hugely underrated. The low budget flicks from this era that were actually pretty great, like Ginger Snaps(2000), have pretty substandard practical effects and werewolves that just…don’t look good. Bigger budget movies that could afford the CG, like Cursed (2005) weren’t very good, and looked pretty bad too. The first Underworld movie in 2003 had some really great effects, but that’s hardly what most would call a werewolf movie.
Late Phases really stands out, and is definitely worth an October viewing. It’s werewolves are…different looking. They’re definitely scary and pretty gross, but they don’t really look like wolves, but more like greasy hairy demons out of Demon Knight (1995). But they don’t look like guys running around in a bear suit like the werewolf in Silver Bullet (1985), which has to be the worst movie werewolf in history. While the creature design and gore in Late Phases looks pretty great, the transformation scene isn’t the best…but it certainly isn’t the worst.
You can stream Late Phases on Amazon here. For some reason, the subtitle of “Night of the Lone Wolf” is added on Amazon, but nowhere else.