Werewolf by Night had me howling for more

Michael Giacchino’s explosive new Marvel special is a horror film all on its own.

It’s no secret that Marvel has been pushing to do more and more series for Disney+. Some, like WandaVision and Moon Knight, are spectacular in their own right, while others, like the Falcon and the Winter Soldier, have fallen flat with their dullness.

Werewolf by Night, however, is not a series. It’s a special, basically a TV movie made exclusively for Disney+. It’s not even an hour long, clocking in at 53 minutes including the credits. However, it has been able to do far more in those 53 minutes than Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder have done in their respective runtimes.

First off, the character. Werewolf by Night is based on the Marvel character with the same name from the comics. It made its debut during the 1970s when the loosening of the infamous Comics Code allowed for more supernatural beings into the comics world. After its debut, Werewolf by Night often ended up butting heads with Moon Knight, with their shared associations with the moon being catalysts for their fights.

Secondly, the director. Michael Giacchino is known mainly as a musical composer for TV and film. His repertoire includes scoring various Pixar movies, like The Incredibles, Up, Inside Out, and Ratatouille, as well as Marvel films, such as Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Spider-man: Homecoming. Not to mention his work, of course, for The Batman, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and even the background music for Space Mountain in Disneyland. So, if anything, I would’ve expected Michael Giacchino to have created the music for this film, not directed the whole thing.

Werewolf by Night – the film, that is – has a very interesting premise. The Bloodstone, a magical gem that allows its owner to gain control over any supernatural creature, is up for grabs after its owner, Ulysses Bloodstone, dies. A group of monster hunters (which includes Laura Donelly’s Elsa Bloodstone, Ulysses’s daughter, and Gael Garcia Bernal’s Jack Russell) meets to gain ownership of the Bloodstone, only to find out that Elsa’s stepmom, Verusa (played by Harriet Sansom Harris), has made it so that the only way to gain the Bloodstone is to find – and kill – a monster set loose by the Bloodstone Temple.

Werewolf by Night is spectacular in what it does best. It leans very heavily into the classic horror genre from the early 20th century, and I for one love it (I watched Universal’s Dracula and Frankenstein growing up). And for those who prefer the modern goriness of contemporary horror films, don’t worry; there are plenty of those moments too. The film isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of the MCU and set itself apart from the rote mechanicalness of the series that came before it. It played upon the stereotypical archetypes of the hunchbacked henchman, the evil stepmother, the monster hunter, and yes, the werewolf, and did it well.

The cast was great, too. Bernal easily gave the best performance in this film, and Harris played an actually terrifying stepmother. Donnelly was good, but there was nothing that made her character especially notable. There were no bad apples in this film; just some good ones, great ones, and superb ones.

For what it is, though, Werewolf By Night is not an ambitious film. There was nothing in this special that connected it to the main MCU; there was no long-rumored appearance of Blade or Moon Knight, nor is there a post-credits scene that teases some bigger action with the characters in the future. But then again, perhaps it was never meant to be ambitious in the first place. The fact that Marvel announced this just a month ago, when they usually reveal their projects months or years in advance, goes to prove exactly that.

There are other problems too. The film lacks suspense within the first half-hour or so, the twists (yes, there are twists) are missing a punch, and most of the sparse comedy is deadpan (no pun intended). It could have been pushed more in that direction, and while what Giacchino did with that one hour was pretty good, it’s still tantalizing to think how much farther he could have taken the characters and the emotions had Werewolf by Night been a series or even an actual feature film. (Again, however, it’s still better than some of Marvel’s most recent theatrical releases.)

Werewolf by Night is one of those movies that you watch to experience the spectacular story, the well-played characters, the fast-paced plot, and the explicit expertise of the director…and never watch again, at least until next Halloween. It’s fun, terrifying, and unique, but it should have been given a little bit more attention by Marvel. Oh well. It’ll be exciting to see where and how the Bloodstone enters the main MCU in the future.


Final Verdict: 8/10