Late Phases (2014)

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When it comes to werewolf films, the world has been sorely lacking. Aside from the film Wer (which I haven’t seen, so I can’t comment on) the last great werewolf film was 2002’s Dog Soldiers. Since then we’ve had to suffer through or, if you’re a more intelligent person than myself, avoid the likes of Skinwalkers, Underworld, the Twilight films (Team Jacob ftw), or the Wolfman remake. Late Phases is an underdog in the battle against romanticized werewolves with rock-hard abs, helping to bring the subgenre back to a simpler time when the beasts were both fun and terrifying.

The story follows Ambrose, (played by an unblinking Nick Damici, Stakeland, We Are What We Are remake) a Vietnam War vet that has lost his vision in the years following the war. Ambrose, who is equal parts stubborn and badass, moves into a gated community for the elderly and is attacked by a werewolf the first night.

The werewolf of the film is clearly a man in a suit and looks silly the first time it is on camera. If the viewer can get passed this first exposure than they are in for a treat. Fear and tension are ratcheted up to eleven as Ambrose’s confusion and unknowing dawn on the viewer; placing yourself in his position becomes a terrifying mental exercise.

Late Phases is able to deliver two things not often seen in horror films. The majority of the characters are elderly, as opposed to the traditional attractive teens that dominate the genre; the younger characters are used in comedic means to highlight societies attitudes and views toward the elderly in bright, disgusting light. Secondly, Ambrose is blind. There have been horror films (even werewolf films, Silver Bullet) that fills the main roles with disabled characters but this is the first one I have seen in which the main character is blind, apart from The Langoliers (which I am still trying, desperately, failingly, to forgot).

While Late Phases isn’t for everyone – there will be people who can not get behind the special effects or Ambrose’s unrelenting stubbornness – it is, however, one of the best werewolf films to come out in a long time and hopefully a sign of a new trend to take back our monsters and keep them as just that, monstrous.

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The Babadook (2014)

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The Babadook is a small budget Australian film by director and writer Jennifer Kent that took the horror world by storm last year. I may be a little late catching up with the film but since I’m three years late with an update, it seems fitting.

The film opens with a stylistic shot depicting a car-crash that is reminiscent of 2007’s Inside and, much like Inside, sets up the emotional landscape for the rest of the film. We are then properly introduced to our main characters: widowed mother Amelia Vannick and her unruly son Samuel Vannick; played by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. A slow first half hour teaches the audience that Amelia’s husband was killed driving her to the hospital to give birth to Samuel and that she has not been able to cope with the child’s or her own emotional issues. Samuel is obsessed with monsters and terrified of his mother dying, while also being hyperactive.

When a macabre pop-up book (designed beautifully by Alexander Juhasz) appears on her son’s shelf one day things start to take a turn for the bizarre. The mother-son couple begin a spiral into the dark depths of depression and psychosis which I don’t want to say to much about, even though everyone has seen this film by now. The performance by Essie Davis is one for the history books; she sells the depth of her character’s issues from beginning to end and is the highlight of the film by far.

The Babadook is a film that should grace the shelf of horror lovers the world over. It’s a slow burn that challenges the audience to look beneath the visual layer of the film to strike at what it really means.