Saturday, March 14, 2015

LATE PHASES: NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF (2014)

LATE PHASES: NIGHT OF THE LONE WOLF (2014) 

Label: Dark Sky Films
RegionCode: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 96 Minutes

Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: HD Widescreen (2.39:1) 
Director: Adrian Garcia Bogliano 
Cast: Nick Damici. Ethan Embry, Lance Guest, Tina Louise, Tom Noonan, Erin Cummings, Al Spenza, Karen Lynn Gorney 

A decent werewolf film is about as east to come by as a decent Bigfoot movie and let me clear things up early on by saying that both are pretty damn rare birds these days. I can count the number of really good werewolf films over the past two decades on one hand, the ones that spring to mind quickly are Ginger Snaps (2000) and Dog Soldiers (2002). I had a lot of hope coming into this one, having been directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano who directed Here Comes the Devil (2012), which I have enjoyed more and more with each subsequent viewing. This lycanthropic indie just happens to be his English language debut and casting Nick Damici from Stake Land (2010) certainly didn't hurt, the guy's a juggernaut of of an actor. 

As the story goes we have a blind 'Nam vet named Ambrose McKinley (Damici) who is being moved into the seemingly quiet suburban retirement community Crescent Bay located on the outskirts of town.Blind though he may be Ambrose comes off as tough-as-nails and a bit gruff, not the friendliest person on the block as a trio of aging stepford wives find out when they come calling to welcome him to the neighborhood. He does hit it off pretty well with his neighbor Delores (Karen Lynn Gorney) though, but that night poor Delores is torn apart by a furry and furious critter that enters her home, the beast also shreds Ambrose's loyal seeing eye dog which makes it personal. It's quite a good bit of excitement and starts the film off strong. 

When the cops arrives they find Ambrose holding his dead dog and his neighbor in shredded on her floor, but attribute the deaths to an animal attack and warn the vet to stay clear of the edge of the woods and to remain inside at night... even though he was attacked inside his house... movie cops.

Being the determined guy that Ambrose is he sets about sleuthing the murder of his neighbor and beloved dog and determines that t might just be a werewolf on the loose in the neighborhood, and with a month before the next full moon he has plenty of time to prepare himself and to maybe figure out who in the community might be the cursed beast.

With a fantastic start featuring some truly howling action and a great set-up we now have to wind down our expectations a bit because things do slow down and settle into a very slow burn, which I didn't mind. Ambrose sets about physically training himself and becoming more familiar with his new home, placing an array of weaponry in strategic places, preparing inevitable full moon showdown. 

He also wanders out into the community to get a better feel for the area and the people, aside from the wrinkly stepford wives (notably one of them is played by Tina Louise, Ginger from Gilligan's Island) we meet the local priest played by Tom Noonan (Monster Club) who starts to look more and more like our furry culprit, which gives the film an inevitable shade of Stephen King's Silver Bullet, there's even a man with a eye-patch around town.  Some of this down time allows us to feel out the strained relationship between Ambrose and his son played by Ethan Embry, whom he keeps at a distance, it makes for some pretty decent character driven story moments, these two actors are quite good together, intense and magnetic.

As good as Embry is you cannot look away from Damici who inhabits the character of the blind 'Nam vet who seems destined and determined to face off against the lycanthropic monstrosity threatening the inhabitants of Crescent Bay, the guy just never turns in a poor performance and he hold this together from start to finish. Damici takes the notion of a blind man battling a werewolf beyond absurdity and straight into reality. Major props to Noonan as the priest who gives the role more than what it probably asked for on paper. 

There's a lot of good onscreen here, the frenzied initial attack on Delores, the set-up of the inevitable face-off, and some great nuanced character development through and through... now for the bad. As a werewolf film the transformations must be judged by by the juggernauts of the sub genre,of course I speak of An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Howling (1981), there's just no way around it. The transformations themselves actually look pretty great and owe a lot to An American Werewolf in London with the elongated fingers, bulging body parts, and jaws protruding from the face during the metamorphosis, but the end result and aesthetic owed more to The Howling and Dog Soldiers. When we see the werewolf in brief glimpses obscured by shadows it is effective, but eventually we get the full on body shot bathed in the headlight of a car and the effect is not so great, it looks like a man in a pair of furry overalls with a sweet animatronic head. It diminishes the move a little but but not enough for me to say that this is not a great little werewolf flick, it's not the next best thing but it is a damn decent character driven werewolf film with some cool transformation effects that if not a straight-up purchase is guaranteed to be an above average weekend rental. 

The Blu-ray from Dark Sky Films looks fantastic with strong color saturation and deep blacks which make for a fantastic HD viewing. Audio option include both English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and a more immersive 5.1 surround mix with optional English subtitles. Extras include a commentary from the director, a fifteen-minute making of video piece and half hour FX featurette documenting the creation of the werewolf effects used in the film. .

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Adrian Garcia Bogliana
- Making of (15 Mins) 
- FX Featurette (30 Mins) 
- Trailer (2 Mins) 

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