Werewolf by Night (2022) Review

Werewolf by Night (2022) Review 1
Werewolf by Night (2022) Review 5
Werewolf by Night
Creator(s): Michael Giacchino
Actor(s): Gael García Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Harriet Sansom Harris
Studio: Disney+
Rating: TV-14
Premiere Date: 08/23/1970
CGM Editors Choice

Marvel has given acquired fans of Werewolf by Night their due. Filler, fluff and fan service are thrown out the window to bring this paranormal hero into MCU existence. Werewolf by Night doesn’t exactly make any dents (yet) to Phase Four. But it’s a short and sweet Halloween adventure MCU fans can binge in regulation. More importantly, Marvel makes a classic monster cool again in the most on-brand TV special possible.

At just 53 minutes, Werewolf by Night is half of a standard Marvel origin story. It’s a bold move for composer and director Michael Giacchino to keep things short. But viewers can appreciate the special for quality over quantity. Here, Werewolf by Night runs for as much as it’s worth. While Marvel knows how to deliver on a fun sit-down that wastes no time making monsters cool.

Werewolf By Night (2022) Review 2

Jack Russell is the unfortunate vessel for Marvel’s resident werewolf. Werewolf by Night first made his comic book debut in Marvel’s second Spotlight issue in 1971. He would eventually cross paths with Moon Knight, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Blade and Morbius in some fitting paranormal stories. He also becomes a member of the Midnight Sons in the Marvel Zombies series. Of course, the MCU leaves these vast comic book stories up to adaptation. Viewers won’t get an old-fashioned coming of change story from Hulk. Werewolf by Night sticks to showcasing the best qualities of its hero and delivering what viewers crave without much filler.

The TV special doesn’t skip any story beats. Marvel makes a strong case for short-form narratives that leave a lasting impression. In true horror fashion, Werewolf by Night starts with a death. A funeral brings in the MCU’s deadliest monster hunters. While each set out on an unexpected hunt as a tribute. Werewolf by Night does a great job of keeping its plot simple. The 53-minute special entertains by unravelling its monster with an organised hunt that quickly goes off the itinerary.

Werewolf by Night sticks to showcasing the best qualities of its hero and delivering what viewers crave without much filler.”

I won’t spoil just how Marvel pulls off its epic introduction for Werewolf by Night, but the title hero already feels at home under the cover of darkness. Gael García Bernal is equally intimidating and earnest as Jack Russell, cursed with lycanthropy by another werewolf jerk. Like Werewolf by Night’s twists and turns, viewers are right to not underestimate Bernal throughout. When the fur, claws and roars came out, I more than missed Jack.

Marvel knows when to be funny without sucking out all the dread in Bloodstone Manor. In short bursts, signature quips from Jack, Elsa and even Verusa remind viewers it’s a fun ride. The special even goes a step up by keeping the humour out of action scenes and other dreadful images. Without reservations for death, those who missed Hulk’s savage nature will find it again through Russell and the werewolf.

Werewolf By Night (2022) Review 3

Werewolf by Night’s cast is big enough to fit in a minivan. Laura Donnelly plays Elsa Bloodstone, the daughter of a monster hunter and a badass swashbuckler. She finds her way back into Bloodstone Manor with some family tensions. Donnelly uses these moments for classic Marvel banter with the sinister Verusa (Harriet Sansom Harris) and Jack Russell. When “the other guy” comes out of Jack, the chemistry quickly changes with a tension that works. He eloquently explains his condition in a way viewers can sympathise with.

Here, Marvel brings out a new side of homicidal werewolves with dignity. Both Elsa and Jack carry Werewolf by Night through survival alone. But Elsa shows a genuine terror that comes with seeing Jack’s agonizing makeover. For the record: the werewolf’s roars make for some of the creepiest soundbites brave Marvel editors will reuse.

Werewolf by Night is hardly perfect despite a bold change in format. Marvel still struggles to keep all its added characters useful. While the first special’s first half takes a while before delivering the goods. The premise is fun with a group of hunters assembled in one room. Fights between other characters come with more bone-crunching grit than usual. But they’re short on character development and exist solely for action. Here, Werewolf by Night stumbles on its supporting cast to bloat length and truly shines post-transformation.

“Across creeping hallways, plenty of still shots and dialogue, Werewolf by Night is a vintage masterclass in cinematography.”

Jack shows his true colours in a pretty atmospheric cult base. Without spoilers, Werewolf by Night finds a perfect Halloween setting in Bloodstone manor. Its stone-working hallways and mazes are quickly drenched in blood. Robes, statues and underpaid henchmen are ripped to shreds. Werewolf by Night’s action is bloody good fun. Marvel stays true to their kinetic choreography from over 30 projects in. Werewolf by Night even hearkens back to the Netflix MCU days through sheer violence and gore alone. I was more surprised to see Marvel walk on thin ice for its TV-14 rating. But this is very much an MCU serving kids shouldn’t be around for. That’s not to say Werewolf by Night is the most violent production yet.

Werewolf by Night barely holds back with mauling, dismemberment and good old-fashioned sword deaths. The black-and-white picture is just enough to cover up gallons of blood spilled. More spooky surprises will come in the most exciting moments. Fight scenes are also delivered with an unfiltered brutality that fits a cannibalistic man-wolf. Marvel puts on a strong impression for the menacing werewolf and possibilities for future crossovers. Yes: there is a one-shot sequence that steals this short special.

Werewolf By Night (2022) Review

Giacchino and writers take almost every advantage to surprise viewers. The element of suspense is a working ingredient to keep Werewolf by Night spooky. As revealed in the trailers, Marvel’s first special goes full noir and establishes a classic monster tone. Viewers have seen this from a caricature of throwbacks (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman). But Marvel scales back on its filmmaking for a refreshing tale.

Werewolf by Night feels even more engaging to watch by taking away the distractions colours can bring. My eyes stayed peeled at the subjects in every frame. Across creeping hallways, plenty of still shots and dialogue, Werewolf by Night is a vintage masterclass in cinematography. This comes with Giacchino’s double-duty as a composer with vintage orchestra to add suspense.

Marvel does best when they’re making first impressions. Werewolf by Night sets a new precedent for self-contained stories. In fact, the 53 minute length comes close to a successful horror television pilot. But director Michael Giacchino more than creates an entertaining Halloween treat for Marvel fans. Werewolf by Night’s introduction is beautifully executed in a tribute to classic monster movies. Newly acquired fans have a new favourite man-wolf to see interact with other paranormal heroes.

No, there isn’t a post credit scene included. But a cameo throughout is sure to please long-time comic book readers.

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE

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