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Werewolf by Night Review

October 6, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT Image Credit: Marvel Studios
7.5
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Werewolf by Night Review  

Directed By: Michael Giacchino
Written By: Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron; Based on the Marvel comics and characters created by Roy Thomas, Jean Thomas, Gerry Conway, and Mike Ploog
Runtime: 52 minutes
TV Rating: TV-14

Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal – Jack Russell
Laura Donnelly – Elsa Bloodstone
Harriet Sansom Harris – Verussa Bloodstone

Werewolf by Night is the first showcase of its kind from Marvel Studios. The television program is Marvel’s first-ever “special presentation.” It is a standalone, one-off television special exploring a new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not a backdoor pilot or even a pilot movie. In comic terms, Werewolf by Night is a one-shot special. While there is potential for the characters and elements to be shown again elsewhere, this particular show was created for the sole purpose of being a one-off. In that regard, it’s an entertaining experience.

Presented almost entirely in black and white, and directed by longtime composer Michael Giacchino, who has created iconic scores for superhero films such as The Batman and The Incredibles, Werewolf by Night is not quite like anything previously depicted by the MCU. The show wears its 1930s and ’40s vintage horror cinematic influences on its sleeve.

The story concerns a group of monster hunters who have gathered at the Bloodstone Family compound. The Bloodstone family’s patriarch has died, and now his widow, Verussa Bloodstone (Sansom Harris) has organized a ceremonial hunt. The winner will receive the all-powerful relic and source of the Bloodstones’ power. To gain possession of the Bloodstone jewel, the hunters must enter the compound’s foreboding labyrinth and defeat an unspeakable monster in a challenge that sees every hunter fend for themself.

Some of the hunters are hiding their own secrets. Joining the hunt is the black sheep of the family, Elsa Bloodstone (Donnelly), who wishes to claim her birthright, much to the chagrin of her disapproving stepmother. There is also the inquisitive Jack, who looks to be the odd person out in the secret gathering. They embark on a deadly hunt where the identities of the true monsters begin to blur.

Giacchino leans heavily on the vintage horror cinema style for Werewolf by Night, which benefits the show. He depicts the special with a pulpy, old-world vibe that works well for the source material and characters. Where the special fits into the larger MCU picture is insignificant. The plot completely focuses on the journey of Jack and Elsa.

The horror style and setting give Werewolf by Night more of an edge over the typical PG-13 Marvel Studios fare. The special is the bloodiest and most violent MCU project to date, not counting the previous Netflix shows. There are more blood spatters and gory kills that take the presentation outside of the usual realm of the MCU comfort zone, making the visual style rather refreshing. Granted, the violence and gore are all depicted in the black-and-white format, so that likely helped Giacchino and producer Kevin Feige work around the pesky limits of the TV-14 rating.

Laura Donnelly, as Elsa Bloodstone, is the standout performer in the special. The journey is just as much her story and introduction to the MCU as Jack’s. Bernal’s Jack Russell is serviceable, but Donnelly’s low-key charisma and coolness stand out. Sansom Harris dials up the hamminess, and her performance plays appropriately well considering the vintage horror style, vibe, and setting.

On a grander scale, the special serves as an enjoyable introduction to the monster and horror side of the MCU. The teleplay adapts some deep cuts from the comics that would not have been imaginable for the MCU when Robert Downey Jr. first donned a suit of armor in 2008. While there is no guarantee that anything further will come of Werewolf by Night, the potential of further exploration into a world of monsters through the Marvel lens is now a very enticing prospect.

Giacchino does remarkably well with the material considering he has never directed anything like this before, and most of his experience is in the world of scoring films and games. Giacchino also provides a moody, eerie, gothic-style score that pairs well with his direction. There is a moment involving a ceremonial tuba player that wonderfully enlivens the hunt’s moody ambiance.

Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron’s teleplay makes a few iffy decisions in the setup and character decisions. At 52 minutes, there is little time to explore the characters’ backstories and motivations. While Werewolf by Night is a quick and dirty one-shot, it is very much on the lean side with its plot. Viewer mileage may vary on that front.

Marvel’s Werewolf by Night begins streaming on Disney+ starting Friday, October 7.

7.5
The final score: review Good
The 411
At 52 minutes, Werewolf by Night is an entertaining Marvel monster mash. As a standalone special, the program is unhindered by the continuity of past efforts, and Giacchino takes glee in introducing the monster and horror side of the Marvel Universe to the MCU. The special presentation is also the bloodiest and goriest MCU romp to date. Werewolf by Night is appropriately fun Halloween fare.
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