There's no escaping the night.
Werewolf by Night is a 2022 superhero horror television special directed by Michael Giacchino, written by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron, produced by Marvel Studios, and distributed by Disney Platform Distribution. It is based off of various Werewolf by Night comics by Marvel Comics. The special stars Gael García Bernal and Laura Donnelly. This is thirty-eighth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the fifteenth entry in Phase Four, being the first ever television special in the MCU. It acts as a sequel to Loki, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and Thor: Love and Thunder. It will be followed by Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.
"Death is comin' for you!" - Jovan
On a dark night, six hunters gather at Bloodstone castle to hunt down a mysterious monster and retrieve a mythical artifact that will crown them leader of the hunters.
Werewolf by Night is Marvel's first ever television special, and it makes an impact right away.
Michael Giacchino, who is usually known for composing films, takes his seat in the director's chair and nails it. Werewolf by Night is one big homage to classic horror films, and Giacchino hits all of those beats correctly. From the grainy black-and-white to the audio to the uneven cuts to the way that transitions were done back then...all of it is perfected by Giacchino. He uses lighting really well. He uses lots and lots of fog and old-timey sets. He does all of this while still knowing how to direct horror. It's a great balance that gives his style nuance and complexity.
I did already praise this, but the homage to the classic Universal horror films is great. The sets and costumes and lighting and music all make it feel straight out of the 30s, 40s, or 50s. It feels like you are watching a slightly more modern version of The Wolf Man from 1941. I loved the way that it utilizes all the technical aspects of filmmaking to make this feel like a retro Halloween special.
Werewolf by Night also benefits from some really, really good action, which is one thing that the Universal classics did not have. This still has modern choreography (duh), and it's shot in a way where you see everything. This is also shockingly violent to the point where I am surprised they were able to get a TV-14 rating. There are some very R-rated feeling kills. There's a solid amount of blood. It was cool to see.
This special is also very efficient. It's an incredibly simple setup and story that wastes no time getting to the point. Within the first ten or so minutes, you understand the story and the characters. The next thirty minutes is just a fun, throwback horror special set in the supernatural realm of the MCU. It's extremely entertaining and will keep you invested for it's short runtime.
Werewolf by Night is simple. It's short and efficient. But, because it's only the length of an episode of TV, it can feel slightly insignificant. The story and characters feel slightly underdeveloped because of how quick this special is. Now, of course, it's a TV special. It's meant to be short. It's meant to not overstay its welcome. But a TV special can be seventy, eighty minutes long. Not forty-five. Because of how short it is, Werewolf by Night exchanges character and story development for good pacing, and I don't necessarily think that that's a great trade off.
Secondly, while Giacchino's direction nails the vibe of the classic horror films, the screenplay doesn't really mesh with that. The dialogue is modern. They have MCU jokes in here. I'm not saying they need to have the epic proclamations and old-timey language of Dracula or Frankenstein, but they shouldn't be talking about sushi when you're trying to get that old horror feel. It got so close to getting me fully invested in the Universal horror feel, but it didn't quite get there because the dialogue pulled me out.
Final Thoughts and Score
Werewolf by Night is an entirely new direction for the MCU, and it works. Michael Giacchino brings a retro horror Halloween special into a universe that is so focused on the formulas and the big crossovers. It should be longer, but this is a great addition to the Marvel canon.
I will go Savory. Age range is 10+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
"Werewolf by Night"
Fun Factor: 8/10
Directed by Michael Giacchino
Rated TV-14 for moderate bloody violence and action, language, frightening themes and images, thematic elements
Released on October 7, 2022
Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell / Werewolf by Night
Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone
Harriet Sansom Harris as Verusa Bloodstone
Carey Jones as Ted Sallis / Man-Thing
Jeffrey Ford as Ted Sallis / Man-Thing
Kirk R. Thatcher as Jovan
Eugenie Bondurant as Azarel
Daniel J. Watts as Barasso
Leonard Nam as Liorn
Al Hamacher as Billy Swan
Richard Dixon as Ulysses Bloodstone
Rick Wasserman as the Narrator