Werewolf By Night Review: A Pleasant & Spooky Special

Marvel Studios has been going in all kinds of new directions in Phase 4, not only with the format of their projects but with style as well. Its latest venture, Werewolf By Night, does both. It’s the first of a new kind of project for the studio, not a movie or series, but a “Special Presentation” akin to the kind networks like ABC would have back in the 1970s and 80s. The Michael Giacchino-directed venture even comes with a title card similar to special presentations of classic TV and clocks in at a brisk 52 minutes (including credits).

Based on the Marvel comics of the same name, Werewolf By Night stars Gael García Berna, Laura Donnelly, and Harriet Sansom Harris. It tells the story of a high-stakes battle between monster hunters fighting for the powerful Bloodstone. To reveal what exactly it does would be a spoiler, but it is so coveted by this crowd that they are willing to kill each other if it means upping their own chances of getting it. The would-be heir to the object, Elsa Bloodstone, has gone against her family’s practice of hunting monsters and is considered a disgrace. The story follows her as she forms a bond with one of the monster hunters and discovers some major secrets along the way.

Werewolf By Night is under the Marvel Studios banner, but — as of its debut — doesn’t have strong ties with any other project from the company and can be enjoyed as its own thing. In fact, unless you’re a fan of the titular comics, the Marvel label doesn’t really indicate whether or not you’d be into this. It may be too dark for some fans of the studio’s usual fare — the violence is heavier than anything else in the MCU thus far — but could become a Halloween staple for those who aren’t keen on superheroes but love the classic monster movie genre.

Hopefully the Marvel Studios branding won’t scare the latter crowd away because this, more than anything else Marvel has put out, is a departure from its norms. This isn’t about how things lead into the Multiversal drama or where the characters will show up next — my best guess as to the answers to these questions would be, “it’s not relevant and it doesn’t matter, please just enjoy the special for what it is,” and “I’m not sure, and while I’d be happy to see them again, I’d also be perfectly fine with Werewolf By Night being a truly standalone project.” This is a send-up to the black-and-white monster movies of yore through and through, from the way that it’s shot to the classic man-turned-monster storyline. And yes, there’s blood — lots of it. Granted, the blood’s in black and white, so maybe it’ll be a little less scary for younger viewers than if it were in color.

To say much more about the story’s details would delve a little too deep into spoiler territory, especially since, at less than an hour, Werewolf By Night has a relatively simple plot. To give any beats away would be revealing a good chunk of the special’s contents. Fans of the genre will surely be happy, as there are multiple creatures akin to the classic Universal Monsters here. Werewolf By Night‘s ending is especially beautiful and reminiscent of old Hollywood, but elaborating on the how and why of it would ruin the effect for a first-time viewer.

Marvel Studios is reportedly planning to release more “Special Presentations” in the future (it seems likely that the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special will be under this banner) but even beyond that, it’s nice to see Disney+ resurrecting the Halloween special to an extent between this project and last year’s Muppet’s Haunted Mansion. Not everything needs to be a full-length movie or series to get its point across, and hopefully the company will come out with more holiday specials clocking in at roughly an hour (besides the admittedly fun LEGO Star Wars ones) that can become beloved classics over time.

SCORE: 7/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.

Disclosure: The critic received a press screener for ComingSoon’s Werewolf By Night review.


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