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

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!

Review Opinion
By JoshWilding - Oct 06, 2022 12:10 PM EST
Filed Under: Werewolf By Night

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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MosquitoFarmer - 10/6/2022, 12:05 PM
Looks like a fun time.
Shivermetimbers - 10/6/2022, 12:52 PM
@MosquitoFarmer - Agreed. Weird that Josh seemed to absolutely gush about it and then "only" give 4 stars though.
DoubleD - 10/6/2022, 12:14 PM
Man-Thing is my favorite Marvel monsters needs a movie.

Vigor - 10/6/2022, 12:17 PM
@DoubleD - I thought hulk was your favorite
DoubleD - 10/6/2022, 12:34 PM
@Vigor - My favorite Marvel Monster. Hulk is my favorite comic and superhero with Spider-Man number 2 :)
The1st - 10/6/2022, 12:15 PM
It's very cool to be able to direct and then score your own film. I'm not sure if he's doing both for this special, but it's quite the toolset.
DoubleD - 10/6/2022, 12:16 PM
GhostDog - 10/6/2022, 12:16 PM
Chris Stuckman said people wanted more after it ended and wished it had been a 2-hour film. Said it was pretty gory and maybe the black and white allowed them to pull it off.

They have to dive deep into the supernatural. I hope Giacchino gets to a whole movie in this 30s serial style. It looks great.
mountainman - 10/6/2022, 12:19 PM
@GhostDog - I really hope that they keep this vibe for all the monsters / Midnight Sons. Give this section of the universe it’s own vibe and cheat the ratings system with the black and white.
GhostDog - 10/6/2022, 12:26 PM
@mountainman - yea if Blade is truly set partially in the 1920, I would love this kind of vibe for some of it. The different corners of the universe having a distinct style. I think this new horror corner would benefit from cheating to get that violence.
StSteven - 10/6/2022, 3:12 PM
@GhostDog - Yeah I've read that the black and white is what prevented it from being rated TV-MA in the US. Even Giacchino said that he thought that it was going to be rated TV-MA. So this is going to be a fun ride 😊.
GhostDog - 10/6/2022, 4:07 PM
@StSteven - nice!! I figured as much
ModHaterSLADE - 10/6/2022, 1:24 PM
Sounds like an excellent offering from a first time director.
marvel72 - 10/6/2022, 9:33 PM
Gives Werewolf By Night 4/5 but gives She-Hulk 5/5

knomad - 10/7/2022, 11:26 AM
I thought it was good, maybe not great. Given that this is part of the MCU, it really couldn't be too over-the-top with the horror and gore. But for a touch-point between the Marvel Monsters and the rest of the MCU, it was adequate. I would like to see some more connections made, specifically between the supernatural side of the MCU and the Darkhold, which was the origin for a lot of the Marvel monsters. Which of course would involve Dr. Strange and Scarlet Witch.

If they want to introduce "real" vampires (not the Morbius kind), there may be a problem. They are really changing Namor and Atlantis ("Talocan"); and pre-deluge Atlantis was where the Darkhold originated. I don't know how much of the pre-pre-history MCU they're going to explore.

Anyway, this was a good first venture into MCU Horror. It will be interesting to see how they walk the tightrope.
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