WEREWOLF BY NIGHT Review; "A Mighty Impressive, Macabre Marvel Monster Tale"

Werewolf by Night arrives on Disney+ tomorrow, and if you're a horror fan, rest assured that the MCU's take on monsters will leave you satisfied...and quite possibly a little bloody. Here's our verdict!

Reviews Opinion

Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 offerings have definitely been varied, with results that, for some fans, have been a little hit-and-miss. After years of facing unfair criticisms for delivering little more than action-packed spectacles with explosive final acts, we can’t blame them for shaking things up a bit, hence why exclamations like "This is unlike anything you’ve ever seen from Marvel Studios before!" have become relatively commonplace in reviews. In the case of Werewolf by Night, though, this Marvel Studios Special Presentation really is unlike anything we’ve seen from the MCU before, and my God, that’s why we love it so much. 

Shot and presented akin to the monster movies of the 1930s, Werewolf by Night picks up with Jack Russell and a group of monster hunters who have been tasked with slaying a beast and retrieving the Bloodstone in the wake of its former wielder’s demise. Ulysses' daughter, Elsa, is also there, and the victor will ultimately benefit from the mysterious artefact’s powers. We soon learn that Jack isn’t quite like everyone else, while Elsa is clearly nowhere near as twisted and sadistic as her estranged father. As this 50-minute tale unfolds, we follow this eclectic group of characters into a maze for a night like no other, and the gory, shocking violence that follows is a marvellous delight for horror fans. 

It’s a good job that Werewolf by Night is presented in black and white because this is, by far, the most violent story we've ever seen play out in the MCU. Marvel Studios has pushed the boundaries in other projects, but here, limbs are severed, heads are impaled, and blood flows as freely as in any great horror flick that comes to mind. It’s never too gratuitous, though, and director Michael Giacchino reigns it in to a point where this special is fun to watch, and not too over the top or silly. The composer-turned-filmmaker certainly embraces the cheese Werewolf by Night’s quirky tone allows him, but if this story is followed by a slew of MCU monster movies presented in this manner, we’d have no complaints. As a directorial debut, Giacchino's work is nothing short of spectacular and he makes the action on screen feel as epic as it is in the movies despite how different this special is to those. 

As it stands, Werewolf by Night serves as a fantastic introduction to a new corner of the MCU, and this glimpse into the world of monster hunters and the beasts (who may not all be that bad...) they track down is nothing short of fascinating. There are rich and exciting new storytelling possibilities now available to Marvel Studios, and just like Iron Man was where it all began for The Avengers, this special serves as a perfect entry point before the things that go bump in the night emerge from the shadows of this shared world. 

While the monster hunters here are mostly interchangeable (they’re entertaining cannon fodder, for the most part), Werewolf by Night really belongs to Gael García Bernal, Laura Donnelly, and Harriet Sansom Harris. The latter plays the twisted and deranged Verusa, Ulysses’ widow, and serves as a truly hateful foe for both Werewolf by Night and Elsa to deal with. Donnelly shows she has all the required toughness and badassery required to play the monster-hunting hero, and as a character likely to be key to many future stories, Marvel Studios couldn’t have cast the role any better. We only scratch the surface here, but both the actress and this hero are terrific.

As for Bernal, he’s excellent as Jack and a delight to watch in action when he transforms. For better or worse, Marvel Studios has stuck to the comic books, delivering a werewolf who looks almost identical to this character on the page. As a result, he’s not overly hulking or monstrous, but definitely scary, and a "classic" werewolf in a lot of the ways that matter most. However, when he’s brought into colour and the wider MCU, a little VFX might be needed to help make him stand out and not look too Teen Wolf-esque. For this adventure, though, it works, and you'll be on the edge of your seat as Jack's alter-ego tears his way through those that pose a threat to him.

There are a couple of occasions where that trademark Marvel Studios humour creeps in where it’s not needed and that can be distracting. The cast handles it well, though, and Jack is so likeable that you’ll be on board with everything Bernal does, including cracking the odd expected wisecrack. Once again, this is a story that feels very standalone in nature and separated from the rest of the MCU, so don't go in expecting any big cameos of Easter Eggs (which may, understandably, disappoint some fans). The star of the show, however, is Man-Thing. We don’t want to say too much for fear of spoilers, but you’ll fall in love with a character who we need to see more of in the MCU as soon as possible. He’s just great, and the unique dynamic he shares with another of Werewolf by Night’s characters demands more screentime in a future project. This is a big win for Marvel Studios and the start of what feels like a very special, and horrifying, new era of storytelling. 

A Halloween horror delight, Werewolf by Night is a mighty impressive, macabre Marvel monster tale that introduces some killer new characters and proves Marvel Studios can still find plenty of ways to surprise us. More Man-Thing is a must!


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