HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LATE PHASES (2014)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

LatePhases_Poster

bars

LATE PHASES (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

“People don’t come to places like this to live, they come here to die.”

Late Phases is the first English language film from Here Comes The Devil director Adrián García Bogliano. The film tells the story of Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici), an armed services/Viet Nam veteran now blind and put into the Crescent Bay retirement community by his son, Will (Ethan Embry). The first night there, a full moon, his neighbor Dolores (Karen Lynn Gorney) is killed and Ambrose is viciously attacked by a savage wolf-like beast. His seeing-eye dog, Shadow, is mortally wounded fighting it off, saving the man’s life. The defiant Ambrose is determined to get answers and soon finds out these attacks occur once a month and the police pass it off as some animal that lives in the nearby woods. They also don’t seem too concerned about the seniors that are it’s victims. But Ambrose begins to put the hard to believe pieces together and realizes he has one month to find out who this shape-shifter is and a means to stop it, by the next full moon. However, his lycanthropic opponent knows he’s coming and is preparing, too…to make sure it’s a war Ambrose won’t win.

I really liked this flick! Not only was it a solid and refreshing take on a werewolf story, but a well made tale of a tough old man who won’t give up. Director Adrián García Bogliano, from Eric Stolze’s tight and clever script, quickly establishes McKinley’s stubborn character, his closeness to Shadow and the mundane life of Crescent Bay, so when the vicious attack comes in the first act, we get it’s full impact. We are then taken along for the smoldering ride as the blind veteran begins to investigate the identity of his lupine invader and make his plans to stop it on the next full moon. The suspense is turned up as we get our reveal a bit early and the cursed individual begins to prepare his counterattack. All this builds up to a very tense and bloody third act showdown between the blind ex-soldier and his lycanthropic enemy. It all works so well, because Bogliano takes his story seriously, generates the proper intensity and we like McKinley and are rooting for the stubborn vet to do what others don’t seem concerned enough to do. There are some minor flaws. McKinley comes to the werewolf conclusion rather quickly, an obnoxious cop character’s dialog is a little too obvious in it’s intent to convey the lack of concern for the seniors here and the climax could have actually played out a bit longer, but otherwise I liked what they accomplished here. It’s suspenseful, intense and has some vicious and very gory action. Technically, the low budget movie is sound, too. There is nice cinematography from Ernesto Herra who shot Here Comes The Devil and a very atmospheric score by Wojciech Golczewski. The werewolf suits and transformations use charming prosthetics and are very effective. There also is some really good and plentiful gore, as well as, a convincing job aging star Dimici about 20 years.

And as for Dimici… he is another reason this works so well. There is a really strong performance here by the Stake Land writer/actor. Damici creates a man who is handicapped by the horror of war and accepts it as punishment for deeds he committed in battle. He is stubborn, difficult but also strong and determined. He makes the crotchety old man very likable and gives him a lot of depth and we go right along with his quest to see this creature brought down. We totally believe that he would give his life to see this fiend stopped, if necessary. We also get nice work from Ethan Embry as his son. The dynamic between the two really works and we get Will’s frustration at how difficult Ambrose is, but yet he still wants to take care of him. The two have good chemistry and make this film really gel with their relationship dynamic. In support, and all doing good work, are familiar faces like Lance Guest (The Last Starfighter), House of the Devil’s Tom Noonan, the legendary Tina Louise as a catty housewife and a small role from the incomparable Larry Fessenden. A good cast that makes this film come together almost perfectly.

I really liked this flick a lot. It’s very well directed. It’s suspenseful, intense, the last act provides some really gory action and it has some nice emotional depth. It’s a refreshing take on the oft-told werewolf tale and it is a well balanced mix of horror, mystery and character drama. The FX are charmingly old-fashioned prosthetics and it’s briskly paced despite the middle act being an intentional slow burn. Highly recommended for something a little different and a horror made for adults at a time when PG-13 teen-centric fright flicks are making up most of what the genre is offering.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 silver bullets.

late phases rating

 

 

 

 

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

Last_starfighter_post

bars

THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984)

The Last Starfighter  is a fun 1984 Sci-Fi adventure that is now both very dated and yet charmingly nostalgic at the same time. Teen Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) lives with his mom (Barbara Bosson) and brother Louis (Chris Herbert) in a trailer park where he serves as the local repairman. Alex constantly dreams of a better life for he and his girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and while it seems like he’s going nowhere, he finds solace in playing The Last Starfighter video game at the local store. Alex soon finds out that this is no mere game, when it’s creator, an alien named Centauri (Robert Preston in his last film), comes to tell him that it is actually a test and his high score has qualified him to join the Star League from the game and become a Starfighter. Their mission, to defend against the game’s villains Xur (Norman Snow) and the Ko-Dan Armada, who are quite real. Taken to their headquarters in space, wide-eyed Alex is introduced to his lizard faced navigator Grig (Dan O’Herlihy), but is overwhelmed and asks to be returned home. Soon after Alex leaves, Xur attacks and the Star League is destroyed save for Grig and a lone prototype gun-star battleship. Back on Earth, Xur’s assassins come looking for Alex and he soon changes his mind to protect his loved ones and the Earth. With a lookalike drone left to act as him in his place, Alex returns to Rylos to somehow try to defeat the massive invading fleet with only he, Grig and their lone warship to defend the galaxy.

In it’s time, Starfighter was groundbreaking for being one of the first films to use completely CGI effects for it’s space and battle scenes. By today’s standards these FX are quite antiquated and cheesy, but, at the time, they were very impressive to those of us who were still used to the simple graphics of games like Asteroids and Pac-man. The sets and costumes also resembled those from a sci-fi TV show from that era, but when it comes down to it, it’s the film’s charm that makes it still fun to watch. As directed by John Carpenter alumni Nick Castle (who played The Shape in the original Halloween) the film is loaded with charm and given a real sense of fun. The space battles are short and not all that exciting, but it is the almost fairy tale like atmosphere and wonderful cast that really makes this movie the charmer it is.

Lance Guest makes a very likable, reluctant hero and Catherine Mary Stewart is perfect as the pretty girl next door which is something she was great at and made her a favorite of many an 80s movie fan. Veterans Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy really deliver fun performances and make there respective characters quite endearing and they both have a great camaraderie with Guest, which goes a long way to making what could have been a routine flick, a little special. Add to that a delightfully over the top performance by Norman Show as the slimy villain Xur and you get a movie that despite being sold on it’s, at the time, revolutionary FX, is really a very character driven story. Director Nick Castle has kept this film memorable because, he focused on the wonderfully endearing cast of characters and they still hold up despite the fact that the FX and sets and costumes are borderline silly three decades later. The 80s nostalgia the film now carries also helps a lot, but when it comes down to it, Nick Castle did a nice job of taking Jonathan R. Betuel’s script and bringing the characters to such vibrant life along with the talented actors cast in the roles.

Overall, while I was re-watching this and I was wincing at the now cheesy CGI and plastic sets, with their random blinking lights, I still couldn’t help, but get a warm feeling inside and a smile on my face whenever the characters interacted together onscreen. And the longevity of this Sci-Fi flick is not based on ships and space battles, but on a fairy tale-like story about some very real and endearing characters, both human and alien alike, who get together and do the impossible. Something I think we all dream of doing now and then. A fun flick whose character charm far exceeds it’s dated FX work. Considered a classic by many and rightfully so. There is talk of some sort of sequel or follow-up being in the works and only time will tell if it happens.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) gun stars.

last starfighter rating

***************************************************

bars