- Directed by Michael Giacchino
- October 7, 2022
When the patriarch of the Bloodstone Clan dies, a group of monster hunters comes together to determine the new guardian of the powerful Bloodstone.
Werewolf by Night is a Disney+ special presentation that creates something different in the generally cookie cutter MCU. In style and overall execution it is largely an homage to old horror movies. Aside from just the use of black and white, it’s directed much like those films were with even the sets being reminiscent of the old Universal horror films from the 40s and 50s.
Werewolf by Night (usually just ‘Werewolf’) applies to two werewolf characters in the comics-Jack Russell and Jake Gomez. I am not exactly sure which version we get based on in-story information. “Jack” is used in connection to the character once but beyond that there is nothing solid. In that moment and given what follows in the story it could be assumed the use of “Jack” is part of a ruse to get a seat in the meeting.
Werewolf by Night on the whole was not bad but it’s a major flaw is the need to interject humor at every possible instance. The atmosphere was a great mix of horror and comic book but the high number of jokes that were interjected to lighten the tone made it unnecessarily humorous. This could have been mildly frightening or just plain creepy if the number of jokes had been cut.
The story centers around a monster hunting contest to determine the next protector of the Bloodstone jewel. The monster being hunted is the Man-Thing (Carey Jones) (referred to as ‘Ted’ in the story) who has his own history in the comics but shows up with little explanation. And his interactions with Jack (Gael García Bernal) take on a lighter tone.
I understand that older horror films had occasionally goofy side characters or even their own bits of levity but not so much of the overall feel of the film was ruined. I understand that Dracula or Frankenstein is not scary by today’s standards, but they did aim to be scary for the time. The unnecessary levity interrupted the pacing and tone.
Being black and white, there is virtually no color in Werewolf by Night. The only thing with any color through much of this is the Bloodstone which is a great touch and emphasizes its nature. The film switches to full color when Judy Garland’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” starts playing in a reverse Wizard of Oz. Why? I’m not entirely sure.
Our main villain is Verussa Bloodstone (Harriet Sansom Harris), estranged stepmother to Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly). Verussa waffles between campy and sinister making her character a bit uneven. Her stepdaughter Elsa appears indifferent to the whole legacy which makes her return to the estate to stake a claim questionable. It is clear she has no love for monster hunting so why try to take over?
Despite these shortcomings it is a fun viewing. There is a great atmosphere mixed with some cool horror moments. And the transformation by Jack into Werewolf is cool and capped off by a great action sequence. The decision to use something of an older Lon Chaney, Jr. style for the Werewolf makeup was a brilliant move. To do something in the style largely popularized during the 80s (and variations still used today) would have damaged the effort here.
The story is well acted and the weaknesses covered by strong performances and just great presentation. They embraced not only style but substance here and created one of the strong Marvel stories in quite some time.
In the end Werewolf by Night is a great throwback to old horror movies and something that is enjoyably different for Marvel live action properties. This will help get you into the Halloween mood. I recommend it!