Marvel’s Werewolf by Night TV Review

Plot: A secret group of monster hunters gather at Bloodstone Manor following the death of their leader and engage in a mysterious and deadly competition for a powerful relic, which will bring them face to face with a dangerous monster.

Review: Billed as a special presentation, Marvel Studios’ Werewolf by Night is in fact a standalone story that is too short to be a feature film and not long enough to be a series. Instead, it is about the length of a single episode of television but packs enough material to serve as the template for Marvel Studios to pump out any number of stories that don’t quite fit the bill for a movie or a show. The experiment works as Werewolf by Night is a blast from start to finish that allows Marvel Studios to play with more unusual aspects of their comic book source material without being dependent on massive budgets. A throwback inspired by the Universal and Hammer horror movies of yesterday, Werewolf by Night is every bit a fitting addition to the MCU and a solid entry point for rookie horror buffs.

Scripted by Heather Quinn (Hawkeye) and Peter Cameron (Moon Knight, WandaVision), Werewolf By Night is directed by Michael Giacchino, best known as the Oscar-winning composer of Star Wars, Star Trek, and several Marvel Studios films. While Giacchino has helmed a couple of short films, Werewolf By Night serves as his debut on a project of this caliber. A long-time fan of classic horror films, Giacchino’s passion shines in this special which combines the pulpy style of old-school monster movies with the conventions and formula that the MCU has come to be known for. Clocking in at just under an hour, Werewolf By Night packs a lot of new elements into Marvel Cinematic Universe and introduces another angle yet to be seen in any of the films or series to date. It also manages to serve as one of the best homages to classic horror in quite some time.

From the very start, Werewolf By Night distinguishes its retro, stylized format. With a new opening graphic proclaiming it as a special presentation, the Marvel Studios logo plays in black and white with monster slashes appearing on screen which then fade into a new, gothic fanfare composed by Michael Giacchino himself. The story then begins with a quick animated explanation of the monstrous side of the MCU with a focus on Ulysses Bloodstone, keeper of the gem which has been his family’s namesake as they defend the world from diabolical creatures. Passed down the generations, Ulysses’ death has left an opening for a hunter to claim the stone and carry on the monster hunting on its behalf. Assembling at his manor, Ulysses’ widow (Harriet Sansom Harris) and estranged daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly) along with several hunters are tasked with taking down a monster to earn the right to have the Bloodstone. One of those assembled is Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal) whose motivations are far different than everyone else’s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBIizDiPRaw

After setting up the atmosphere of Bloodstone Manor and its grounds with a look and feel right out of Frankenstein or Dracula, the episode showcases the red Bloodstone as the only item in color in the entire feature. Affixed to a monster that must be killed to claim the stone, the various hunters get to their task which allows Jack and Elsa to forge a bond before the reveal of Jack’s true nature as well as the monster they are hunting. As Werewolf by Night progresses, the story shifts from short action sequences to a lengthy dialogue-heavy section, before the ending unleashes the violent werewolf upon the ensemble in what may be the most violent sequence in MCU history. Whether it is because the bloodshed is in black and white or because it is CGI, there is a lot shown on camera that I was not expecting. Still nowhere near the violence of Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman or even An American Werewolf in London, there is a fair amount of gore for what is the equivalent of a PG-13 movie.

Despite some minor roles from Leonardo Nam, Al Hamacher, Eugenie Bondurant, and Kirk Thatcher, the bulk of the screen time goes to Bernal, Donnelly, and Harris. Harriett Sansom Harris has a long genre career and is solid here, but the chemistry between Bernal and Donnelly sets up a lot of potential in their MCU futures. Donnelly, best known for her lead role in HBO’s The Nevers, has a solid presence that could anchor her own tale. The character designs are very cool with Jack Russell’s werewolf form taking on a look that is far less animalistic than I expected with a resemblance closer to the old Lon Chaney Wolfman design. The debut of Man-Thing in the MCU is also very cool and may be the most faithful translation of a Marvel Comics character yet. The dynamic between Werewolf by Night and Man-Thing is something fans will really enjoy.

Werewolf By Night is definitely not what I expected based on the trailers. Michael Giacchino does a great job with the story which ends in a way that is far lighter than I thought this story could be capable of but keeps it as a nice addition to the MCU that works as a standalone tale. There are no superheroes in this story but it is one that could easily slot into a line-up with Moon Knight, Blade, Doctor Strange, and even Hulk. I expect that we will see a lot more Marvel Studios special presentations in the future and I hope they are able to be as playful and fun as Werewolf By Night. A successful genre exercise, Werewolf By Night is a bloody romp that respects the horror movies that inspired it and blazes a new direction for the MCU that opens up a lot of possibilities.

Werewolf By Night premieres on October 7th on Disney+

Source: JoBlo.com

About the Author

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.