Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.
Werewolf By Night was released today on Disney+ as a Marvel Studios Presentation. The offering is inspired by the classic 1930s and 1940s horror films that set the foundation for monster movies to this day. One of those classic monsters just also happens to be a part of Marvel Comics, the werewolf. His character’s name is Jack Russell. He first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #2 in February 1972. This was followed by a Werewolf by Night series in September 1972.
The special is being directed by Oscar-winning composer and longtime Marvel Studios collaborator Michael Giacchino. It is important to note that this is if directorial debut and that he also composed the music for this special presentation. He had scored other MCU films including Thor: Love and Thunder, Doctor Strange, and three Spider-Man films.
But this is no ordinary Marvel Cinematic Universe film. This does not fit with any of the films or television series. This explores a whole different part of Marvel that many casual MCU fans are probably not aware of. This is immediately showcased in the special as the Marvel Studios logo is turned black and white and is viciously clawed by what we think is probably the werewolf.
Werewolf by Night follows a group of monster hunters gathering on a dark spooky night. They have come to the foreboding Bloodstone Temple following the death of their leader. In a very eerie and comical way, he speaks to the group about the task at hand. As part of a strange and macabre memorial to his life, the attendees are put into a mysterious and deadly competition for a powerful relic that is also going to put them face to face with a monster.
The title card, score, and of course the black and white in the introduction all immediately show Giacchino’s commitment to making this look like a classic horror film. The story showcased is simple and straightforward. It’s interesting to see the level of detail that has been put into making it look old. The pacing of the scenes is a bit slow but no different than what we saw in those classic monster movies. A lot of the emotion is showcased through the score (it helps when the director can do both). Then I also noticed the simplicity of the sets, which allowed the actors to take the spotlight in each scene.
I was surprised by the amount of gore and violence that they chose to show in Werewolf by Night. But it’s interesting that with the film being in black and white, the lack of color hides some of the gory details that are usually attached to such sights. No shades of red and maroon blood, or the different colors of flesh and an arm is cut off.
Gael Garcia Bernal does a great job in the film playing the mysterious Jack Russell. While audiences already know what monster lies within him (and if not what a treat), it’s interesting to watch his character in a short period of time begin to unravel who he really is. Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone is a good catalyst to help reveal the next part of the journey.
One thing that did bother me is the presentation. The first is the actual visual presentation. If your going to commit to making it look old, go in all the way. It bothered me how they added spots and film scratches throughout the film, despite how clean and crisp the film looked. Maybe just letting there be a bit more grain would have made it better. To be fair it does not help that I had just watched Universal’s The Mummy and The Bride of Frankenstein the night before. Also, I thought it should have been kept entirely black and white.
Also, this is me just nit-picking at this point, but maybe reduce the size of Man-Thing a bit? Anytime he was on screen it also brought me back to the modern MCU.
Overall I thought they did a good job with Werewolf by Night. One of my other complaints, in the beginning, was that this was too short, but then again with this plotline what else could they do? I guess what I meant was that I want to see more of Bernal as this character. Maybe not just a presentation but a full-feature film. He is a great actor that is capable of continuing to develop Jack and maybe allowing us to meet other monsters along the way.
OVERALL GRADE FOR WEREWOLF BY NIGHT: B+
Werewolf by Night can be streamed now exclusively on Disney+.