There was a period in the 1960s when marvel comics ruled the world of monsters. series like Tales to Astonish Y Journey Into Mystery introduced readers to one terrifying, and typically giant-sized, creature after another, years before Marvel turned its full attention to superhero stories.
The ubiquitous success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days seems poised to transform the era of Marvel monsters into a relic of simpler (and perhaps, stranger) times, but Werewolf By Night of Disney suggests the study isn’t ready to be shelved just yet.
Directed by Oscar-winning composer and filmmaker Michael Giacchino from a screenplay written by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron, Werewolf By Night it’s a throwback to both Marvel’s past and monster movie history, and offers an adventure unlike anything in the MCU thus far.
Presented as a classic black-and-white horror film in the style of Universal Pictures’ monster classics, Werewolf By Night presents Gael Garcia Bernal as a monster hunter and secret Jack Russell werewolf (Marvel was never known for his subtlety). After Russell is summoned to the estate of the recently deceased and prolific Bloodstone hunter Ulysses, he soon finds himself pitted against a group of hunters vying for a powerful artifact from Bloodstone’s collection.
As expected, Werewolf By Night takes a few narrative twists and turns along the way that explore the relationship between the monsters and those who hunt them (particularly once Russell’s secret is revealed). And despite a bit of modern Marvel-esque humor peppering the film, it does an impressive job of channeling the old-school look of the Universal Pictures horror classics that inspired it.
Giacchino’s evocative score and use of the black-and-white palette and lighting are put to great effect, with strobe flashes, creative use of shadows, and powerful orchestral explosions marking powerful moments in the story, for example. all these elements they raise Werewolf By Night to a cinematic symphony that pays homage to the very films that inspired many of the creators of early Marvel monster stories.
While the film itself is packed with many familiar set pieces and echoes of the past, Werewolf By Night it also breaks new ground for Disney and the MCU.
The film is a surprisingly gory tale, with severed hands and impaled heads appearing with alarming frequency for a Disney-branded project. The film’s limited color palette serves to dull the gore a bit, but it seems like a dash of color is all. What Werewolf By Night might need to be considered the MCU’s bloodiest movie to date, though it does face some competition from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
more than with DDoctor Strangehowever, the blood and gore of Werewolf By Night they feel in line with the overall tone of the film. She’s an old-school creature at heart, and the way the gory moments are shot (and how often they happen) feels more akin to classic cinema than over-the-top camp. In most cases, these are moments that you should not surprise modern movie audiences, but they are made through Giacchino’s camera and score.
García Bernal’s talents are put to good use as Russell, the film’s titular werewolf, adding plenty of humor and heart to the character to go along with the horror unfolding around him. Laura Donnelly also gives a strong performance as Elsa Bloodstone, the estranged daughter of Ulysses, making her her debut in the MCU.
The film surrounds Bernal’s Russell with a cast of interesting hunters to contend with. That group of characters, which includes Eugenie Bondurant as an intimidating huntress whose choice of an all-white, feathered uniform is brilliant in every sense of the word, collectively pokes fun at a much larger and more intriguing universe of monsters and hunters than Marvel. hope to explore further at some point.
However, the film’s most memorable supporting character is the lesser-known Marvel monster Man-Thing, who returns to live-action features after essentially serving as a supporting character in his terrifying 2005 film of the same name. either the swamp monster Man-Thing as another Groot or Korg-type figure, an oversized character whose intimidating outward appearance belies a friendly and relatable personality. Introducing Man-Thing is a big change for Marvel, but the studio’s record thus far with these types of characters is good.
It is possible that Werewolf By Night It doesn’t fit neatly into the mold of Marvel’s interconnected universe at the moment, but it’s exactly the kind of bold and unique project that pushes boundaries and nurtures the growth and evolution of the MCU. Those expecting a standard superhero story with some monster flavor will not. will get in Werewolf By Nightbut what they will receive it’s an entertaining callback to Hollywood horror history wrapped up in some familiar Marvel touchstones.
If Disney really wants to embrace the darker corners of its Marvel Comics universe, Werewolf By Night is a great first step in that direction. Here’s hoping the studio’s journey into mystery (or perhaps, a story to surprise) continues, and the adventures of Marvel’s on-screen monsters become just as popular as their comic book counterparts.
Marvel’s Werewolf By Night premieres October 7 on the Disney+ streaming service.