I’ve always have had the opinion that live-action Marvel projects are not just superhero movies or television shows. They usually fit another sub-genre of film as well. The first Captain America was a war drama and its sequels fall under the spy/espionage category. The first couple of Thor films felt like Shakespearean plays with all the family backstabbing and the like. Shang-Chi was more like a martial arts flick than a superhero film, if you really think about it.
So, it wasn’t surprising for me to find Marvel dabble with the horror genre. More specifically, they tried to paid homage to the classic black-and-white monster movies. What I did find surprising is how they decided to dip their toes in the genre with an incredibly obscure character like the Werewolf by Night. Now that it’s out, let’s go check on this Disney+ television special and see if it’s something to howl about.
Now, as the trailer doesn’t really show much about what the movie is all about, I’m going to extend Disney the courtesy and make this a SPOILER FREE review. I do find it odd Disney opted to release it at the start of October instead of a date closer to Halloween but there just might be people who are waiting to watch it with the whole family during the spookiest of holidays. So, yeah, this is a SPOILER FREE review.
Werewolf by Night takes place sometime after the death of Ulysses Bloodstone, one of the best monster hunters in the world. Five other monster hunters are called to Bloodstone Manor to join a ritualistic hunt with the person who manages to slay the monster first winning the Bloodstone, a relic with enormous magical power. Elsa Bloodstone, Uylsses’ estranged daughter also joins in the hunt as she believes the Bloodstone should remain in her family. However, it does appear one of the members joining the hunt may have some ulterior motives for being there…
As you can tell from the synopsis I’ve written, I’ve kept things very vague. This is entirely intentional because the entire Werewolf by Night comics series is relatively unknown by even the most hardcore comic book fans. I did kind of do a little research about the character so I had an idea of what was coming. But I do think it would be best for viewers to go into Werewolf by Night totally blind to even who the titular character is.
I will say I really enjoyed the entire classic monster movie aesthetic, even going so far as to show the television special in black-and-white. There were also a few times when the “film” would break and some blemishes would appear in the corner or something like that to really make it feel like an old movie. Even some of the set designs have a more “cheap” look to them, which does fit the atmosphere it’s going for. It does make it look distinct and unique than the other Marvel outings as of late.
I really do wish the production went all out when it came to mimicking the old monster movies style, however, I do understand that it couldn’t be helped as Werewolf by Night is still made with today’s viewers in mind. This is plainly obvious when it comes to the use of special effects and CGI. If Marvel really wanted to copy the style of classic monster movies, they could have also used old school movie making techniques like incorporating matte paintings for scenic shots or use good old fashioned “man in a rubber suit” practical effects for the monsters. Heck, they could’ve used CGI for the monster effects and But, like I said, this is still a modern production and I understand it would look cheesy and modern audiences might not get it and complain at how cheap the production was.
While I do wish they used some old school movie making techniques for Werewolf by Night, the exception to this would be the action scenes. I will say they are very well executed here. They aren’t super flashy and they are generally brief. But they do leave an impression and are choreographed really well.
Speaking of brief, Werewolf by Night is actually very short. Clocking in at 53 minutes, including the ending credits, this Disney+ special isn’t even an hour long. This means they really had to cram in all the story in a short amount of time and, honestly, I really liked it. There isn’t a whole lot of padding in the story and you’re just given just enough to piece together what wasn’t told. There are also a couple of twists to the story. Now, these twists come off as blatantly obvious if you do a little research on the Werewolf by Night property. But, if you go into it without knowing anything, there might be a surprise or two in store for you. Overall, you might not get the entire backstory because they just give you enough details to follow along but the story that’s told in Werewolf by Night does manage to still feel satisfying but wanting more at the same time.
The acting overall was really good. As it’s supposed to feel like an old movie, a lot of the performances are slightly over the top. Not to a level where it feels cringey but just enough where things feel a little exaggerated. Laura Donnelly gives a rather inspired performance as Elsa Bloodstone as you can tell she just is so sick of the entire history of hunting down monsters. Harriet Sansom Harris, who plays Verussa, Elsa’s stepmother, is beautifully cheesy and she just seems to be enjoying the ability to ham it up as much as possible. I also love how Gael Garcia Bernal’s Jack comes off as so bland and low energy despite seemingly having the highest kill count amongst all of the monster hunters invited to the ritual.
All-in-all, Werewolf by Night is one of the most creative Marvel projects that have come out in a long while. It never really overstays its welcome as its just shy of an hour but its story is told with really good pacing, fun characters, a great aesthetic look and tons of atmosphere. I say give this a watch and hope Marvel takes these kinds of risks in the future.
Have you seen Werewolf by Night? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!
2 thoughts on “I’ll Review Anything: Werewolf By Night (SPOILER FREE)”
I loved it. I think Marvel needed a win here. I think the Marvel fans needed a win here as well. I’m one of those who would have went about Phase 4 much differently and stayed with theatricals that served as both origin stories and team-ups to introduce the next wave of Avengers. Not a fan of the streaming series route they took. This was great. Exploring a new genre to fold into the MCU. As you noted, it’s brief running time was a pleasant diversion. Love letter to the monster movies of the past.
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