Werewolf By Night is one of the best examples of horror within the MCU.
Werewolf By Night (2022) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on October 14, 2022
Rating 4 /5
Posed as a Marvel special for Disney+, Werewolf By Night manages to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe even closer to the realm of horror than this year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The fact it was directed by movie composer Michael Giacchino (who also did the score for this movie) is also rather remarkable. It’s such an inventive usage of Marvel Comic’s greatest horror assets that are presented in a way that feels more like a vividly intense horror picture than just the MCU’s mild take on the genre.
The film takes place after the recent death of Ulysses Bloodstone. At his manor, five experienced monster hunters have been assembled to decide who will inherit the Bloodstone. They’re thrown into a maze where they must hunt down a monster who currently has the Bloodstone lodged within their body. Among the hunters is Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal), a mysterious man who can transform into a werewolf, and Ulysses’s estranged daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly), who is warned this isn’t a hunt she should be involved with. The hunt proceeds with some surprisingly brutal deaths as well as some surprising developments. One of the biggest twists is that the monster with the Bloodstone is an old friend of Jack.
Nearly the entire special is shot in black and white. This could be viewed as an easy way to show more blood but it’s a rather strong choice in style for evoking more of the classic monster movies. This becomes evident with the retro text, the shadowy presentation, and the score that is equal parts chilling and thrilling. There are a few flourishes of color in the epilogue but it’s mostly this classic look throughout the film, which bodes surprisingly well for scenes of monster attacks and vicious fights in Bloodstone Manor. It makes this special feel highly distinct from other Marvel Studios offerings and makes it feel like trying to form a complete and connected universe. So don’t expect any cameos or continuity in the build-up to the next Avengers movie with this presentation.
The acting all around is rather stellar. I particularly loved Harriet Sansom Harris’s performance as Ulysses’s widow Verussa who manages the estate. Her favoring of her late husband’s wishes are exceptionally dark, taking a wicked sensation in this hunt for inheritance. Bernal also makes for a compelling character who has chemistry with monsters and a conflicting nature for being involved with the profession of monster hunting while being a monster himself. The final scene of him sharing a morning coffee with a monster is so in character yet amusing for this character who exists between the worlds of man and werewolf.
I’m sure this next part comes as no surprise, but the action is great and not just in a highly choreographed way. There’s a lot of brutality on display that even when Jack is in his werewolf form, there’s a terrifying nature to how he fights. The way he shreds flesh and sinks his teeth into necks makes for a strong combo of action and horror. There’s a moment when the soldiers trying to stop him are trapped in a room with him, desperate to hopelessly flee from this powerful monster.
Werewolf By Night is one of the best examples of horror within the MCU. More importantly, it feels like horror can exist in this cinematic universe beyond just some little horror touches here and there. Within this special, there’s not insistence on relating to the events of other MCU movies nor is there some shoved-in cameo to try to tie this picture to the next Black Panther or Ant-Man. It’s just a great little standalone dose of Marvel horror that succeeds as more than just another comic book movie.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.