Werewolf by Night Is MCU Horror Perfection

Anybody who knows my taste in movies knows that my love for horror is rivaled only by my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I adore that franchise, so whenever these two great loves of my cinematic life meet, it’s basically heaven for me. Sure, the MCU has been pretty light on horror for most of its 14-year existence, but ever since WandaVision, that’s been changing bit by bit. And now, with Werewolf by Night, Marvel has fully unleashed the spooky side of its universe, and as a horror fanatic, I’m happy to say that it’s amazing.

Werewolf by Night is a 55-minute Disney Plus special that was directed by Michael Giacchino, and it stars Gael García Bernal, Laura Donnelly, and Harriet Sansom Harris. It’s about a group of monster hunters who come together to honor the recently deceased Ulysses Bloodstone, one of their greatest comrades, and to fight for the Bloodstone, a powerful relic whose wielder will become their new leader. 

Right off the bat, I knew I was going to love Werewolf by Night. It’s shot almost entirely in black and white, so it feels very much like an old school horror film from the ‘30s or ‘40s, and the title is even stylized to look like a movie from that era. It’s a perfect homage to that period in genre history, so if you’re a fan of those early horror films, I think you’re really going to like this TV special.

On top of that, Werewolf by Night also completely nails the various tones it tries to hit throughout its runtime. Sometimes it’s suspenseful and tense, other times it’s lighthearted and funny, and still other times it’s macabre and fun. Every single one of them works perfectly. Director Michael Giacchino did a great job of blending those different vibes in just the right amounts and at just the right times, so I never got the impression that he was struggling to find the right balance or just shoehorning things in. It all felt entirely natural, so I bought into every second of this story.

Jack Russell looking distressed

Moving on to the characters, this is arguably the best thing about Werewolf by Night. The makeup, costumes, and performances are all excellent, so I loved seeing every single one of these characters whenever they were on screen, no matter what was happening. Granted, most of them don’t get a ton to do, but they all make the most of their limited opportunities.

The ones who get the lion’s share of the screen time are Jack Russell (the titular lycanthrope), Elsa Bloodstone (Ulysses’s daughter), and Verussa Bloodstone (Ulysses’s widow), and all three of them are amazing. Jack and Elsa are just really likable characters who are very easy to root for (although in totally different ways!), and Verussa feels like she comes right out of a real ‘30s horror movie. Actress Harriet Sansom Harris plays the role with a fervor that ventures dangerously close to being too campy without actually crossing that line, so I completely ate up every second she was on screen.

Last but definitely not least, we have the horror, and this is by far the most surprising part of Werewolf by Night. Not only is this a Marvel special, but it was made specifically for Disney Plus, so I think we’ve all been expecting it to go light on the violence and scares. And to be fair, it’s by no means a scare-a-minute spook show or an ultra-bloody gorefest, but I have to say, I was surprised by how violent and bloody it is.

We see limbs get chopped off, heads split open, and blood squirting out of the werewolf’s victims, and there’s even one part where blood squirts onto the camera itself. It’s pretty awesome, so if you want to see some legit horror action, you’re definitely going to get it here.

Elsa Bloodstone looking confident

What’s more, the monsters (yes, there’s more than one) all look awesome as well, so if you’re a fan of cool creature designs, I think you’re really going to like what you see in Werewolf by Night. There’s also an excellent werewolf transformation scene, but it’s not what we normally expect from these moments. We don’t actually see Jack turn into his lycanthropic alter ego. Rather, we just see his shadow on the wall, and admittedly, that might sound a bit lame on paper.

Most of the time, if I’m going to see someone turn into a werewolf, I want to actually see them turn into a werewolf, but I have to say, this shot is surprisingly well executed. Even though the camera doesn’t really let us see what’s happening, it still captures the monstrous nature of this beast, and the creature’s shadow is actually quite terrifying in its own right, so I was more than happy with this somewhat unorthodox transformation scene.

In fact, I was more than happy with pretty much everything in Werewolf by Night, and the only real critiques I have of it are just very minor nitpicks. For example, there’s a scene where an explosive device seems to take an unrealistically long time to go off, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s such a minor issue that I only mention it to show how nearly flawless this TV special is.

It’s just really well done on every count, so if this were a feature-length movie, it would almost certainly be in my top 10 of the year. It’s that good, and I can’t wait to see what the MCU does next with these characters. Hell, even if you’re not a Marvel fan, I still think this is worth your time. It’s almost entirely standalone, so you don’t need to know anything else about the MCU to enjoy it. It’s just a great little horror story that’s perfect for this time of year, so if you like monsters, you should definitely check out Werewolf by Night.

Werewolf by Night is currently streaming on Disney Plus.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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