Werewolf by Night is here because It was a dark and dreary night somewhere in the MCU. Such a night as this is the perfect backdrop to bring together a secret society of monster hunters. After the death of their leader, Verusa (Harriet Sansom Harris) calls Azarel (Eugenie Bondurant), Barasso (Daniel J. Watts), Liorn (Leonardo Nam), and Jovan (Kirk R. Thatcher) together for a memorial … of sorts. Instead of canapes and merlot, they jump directly into a deadly competition. One of them will claim the leader’s relic – the Bloodstone. There is more than one catch to this competition, but the major one is that somewhere in a vast, complex maze is a horrible monster. Each hunter understands they will kill or they will be killed. No one wants to take the plunge first.
Werewolf by Night is heavily inspired by the horror films of the ’30s and ’40s. It succeeds mostly because it disguises any reliance on special effects. It makes the viewer truly long for the glory days of monster movies like Lon Chaney’s magnificent “The Wolf Man.”
Werewolf by Night is completely black and white. That is the movie’s secret sauce, as it evokes everything classic about classic monster movies. Also, its lack of color serves as notice that this is definitely not your usual Marvel movie, and that’s such a great thing.
Who’s The Dude?
The film’s premise is straightforward. Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal) is a very trim character. He looks out of place amongst the cabal of wildly dressed monster hunters. They’ve all gathered together after the death of Ulysses Bloodstone, their guild’s leader. It is primarily Russell’s story. This group must take down a monster to claim the Bloodstone. It is a powerful artifact that puts its possessor in control of the guild.
Who’s That Lady?
Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly) joins the group. She is the long-estranged daughter of Ulysses Bloodstone, and she has returned with the sole purpose of claiming the Bloodstone, a family heirloom that she considers hers rightfully. However, she sees something inexplicable in Jack that she can’t put her finger on. We, the audience, sense this, too. This attraction serves to draw the viewer into the story, as we want to learn what it is all about – even as they do.
The manic action in the maze is punctuated only by the discovery of the monster, and I won’t spoil any of that. I enjoyed this sequence very much, as I am a fan of the various monsters that have appeared in Marvel comics over the years. ‘Nuff said that this particular monster is introduced very well, has more than one or two surprises in its backstory, and executes its primary monster functions with great aplomb!
There’s not too much in the “bad” category. The film is a very trim 53 minutes in length. That puts it on my bad list. Once I got into it, I wanted the film to go on longer than that.
For someone not used to out-and-out gore, Werewolf by Night might be a little over the top. Director Michael Giacchino nuances his vision of violence. He works very hard to deliver very tense scenes that build up the tension.
For instance, he transforms Russell into the Werewolf almost entirely off-screen. We are only treated to tiny glimpses that evoke werewolf movies of the past. Giacchino understands that there’s no reason to attempt to outdo American Werewolf in London.
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The skillful tension-building makes it almost like a wonderful release when the werewolf appears and launches into action. These scenes are very much the gore-fest that most audiences tuned in to see. They are much more extreme than what you’ll find in any other standard Marvel movie. They are also in and out quickly enough so that they don’t wear out their welcome.
I put the gore in the Ugly category. Giacchino actually handles it very skillfully. It really makes this film worth watching, perhaps even more than once.
Werewolf by Night is a visual treat to the eyes and the ears. It brings back to a waiting audience the kind of wonder that fans of the genre haven’t seen in multiple decades. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Jack skillfully. I think his chemistry with Laura Donnelly will be continued in the future.
While Werewolf by Night may not make you look away as the sword hacks meatily or the arrow shucks into a tree, or human, limb, it is the stuff that audiences have had a hankering for (whether they knew it or not). Let’s hope that the powers that be at Marvel Studios decide to creep it real and give us pumpkin’ to talk about in the years to come.
Werewolf by Night is currently streaming on Disney +.
* Source: YouTube – Marvel Studios’ Special Presentation: Werewolf By Night | Official Trailer | Disney+