In a bit of a Halloween delight, Marvel has released a surprising one-off special. Directed by Michael Giacchino (yes, you read that right, I said directed), Werewolf by Night follows a lineup of monster hunters who descend upon the Bloodstone Temple to go toe-to-toe with a dangerous monster.
From a technical standpoint, Werewolf by Night is an absolute spectacle, directed incredibly well by Michael Giacchino and excelling in all departments. In terms of the narrative, it’s just good. It’s a fine story that offers just enough context to hook you in for the entire 50-odd minute runtime. I was never bored and I was certainly engaged through to the end, though it didn’t pull any narrative punches interesting enough to really blow me away. It opens the door to a world I’d love to explore more, which is great. But as for this story, it’s just good – nothing that really peaked my storytelling radar.
While the story might not have impressed me, virtually every other element did. This is by far the most horror-esque thing the MCU has put out there. It’s dark, tense and surprisingly bloody for a Marvel property. I’m almost certain that the reason they could have more blood than usual is because of the black and white aesthetic, and I’m all for it. It’s not over the top in terms of the violence, only going there when it needs to. The action sequences are tense and exciting, especially the moments in which the titular werewolf is unleashed. As much as it all adopts a very dark and gloomy tone, there is a hint of campiness here and there which works well – tying in to what is the main inspiration for this film.
The vintage aesthetic is clearly an homage to the classic Universal monster movies of the 1930’s, including Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and of course, Werewolf of London (1935). Everything from the colour palette to the intentional placement of scratches and burns in the “film” is done to evoke that classic monster movie feel, and it’s all perfectly executed. Even the score, composed by Michael Giacchino, weaves brilliantly into the whole vintage aesthetic and heightens the intensity. All of these technical elements are blended together by Giacchino incredibly well, especially considering this is his full-length directorial debut.
In terms of the performances, everyone is good. From Gael Garcia Bernal’s lead role to the presence of Laura Donnelly and Harriet Sansom Harris, everyone does a fine job. No one really stands out above and beyond, but that’s expected in a TV special as short as this. One last thing I will comment on is that the practical costuming and makeup design of the werewolf is awesome. Maybe the fact that it’s in black and white hides a lot, but nevertheless I loved that it appears to be entirely practical.
In the end, Werewolf by Night is a great time whether you’re a horror fan, an MCU fan or just looking for something easy to watch. It’s stylistically spectacular. The visuals, score and sound all work together to create the look and feel of a 1930s monster flick – the main reason why this is such an enjoyable ride. I’d love to see if and how this narrative (or these characters) can be expanded on going forward, because it paves the way for an interesting corner of the MCU.