Werewolf by Night, the first-ever Marvel Cinematic Universe TV special, is an unusual step for the franchise as it looks to expand its horizons beyond its most popular superheroes. This story, directed by Academy Award-winning music composer Michael Giacchino, takes us into the world of Marvel’s monsters and monster hunters. Shot almost entirely in black-and-white, Werewolf by Night is a throwback to traditional Hollywood monster movies.
The story begins with a number of monster hunters gathering at the Bloodstone Manor, the estate of deceased monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone. They have been called here by Ulysses’ wife, Verussa, who wants them to compete in killing a deadly monster present in the estate. The one who manages to do so will be designated as the new leader of the monster hunters and will also wield the powerful Bloodstone.
Among the hunters are Elsa (Laura Donnelly), Ulysses’ estranged daughter, and Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), also known as the Werewolf By Night, who has come here on a completely different mission. They soon team up to help each other achieve their goals.
Unlike the many Marvel products we have seen in recent years, Werewolf By Night is more about suspense and characters than about heavy CGI or other special effects. The corpse of Ulysses, who has some “graveyard humour” left in him, or Russell’s makeup as the Werewolf by Night, are all throwbacks to the legendary Universal Movie Monsters.
The background score is what stands out the most about this special. Giacchino, who has provided music for films like Up (2009), Ratatouille (2007), and Lost (2004) extensively borrows the musical approach from old Hollywood. Even the violin screech made famous by Alfred Hitchcock in his 1960 classic, Psycho, features in this special.
The writing is funny, with the jokes being inspired by the campy horror films of the 1940s and 50s. Writers Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron, who have worked in other Marvel productions like Moon Knight and Hawkeye, have exercised a distinction between their other works for the franchise and this horror special.
The performances by Bernal and Donnelly are strong and impressive. and their chemistry can surely be expanded upon in some other Marvel output. We have already seen Marvel take an attempt at horror in Moon Knight, but Werewolf by Night is gorier and made for a niche audience who enjoy old-school horror.
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If you’re a Marvel fan, watch the special for how it deviates from the canonical approach. And if you are a horror fan who has enjoyed Abbott and Costello’s meetings with monsters, films like Dracula’s London, A Werewolf in London, and Man Made Monster, this special should be right up your alley.