Werewolf By Night sees the MCU sharpen the claws of its horror credentials.
Ditching the tights and flights fare of the MCU to date, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT sees the comic book titan embrace its pantheon of horror characters and bring some real darkness into their sprawling cinematic universe. It’s also a welcome change of tone and approach as the special feature format allows debut director Michael Giacchino free reign to embrace the classic Universal monster movie aesthetic by presenting the whole thing in atmospheric monochrome.
Following the death of Ulysses Bloodstone, five experienced monster hunters are summoned by his widow to Bloodstone Manor to participate in a winner slays all monster hunt to determine the new holder of the powerful Bloodstone, a powerful ancient relic that Kevin Feige has suggested will be “very important” to the current Multiverse Saga although WEREWOLF BY NIGHT is itself refreshingly self-contained and streamlined.
The BATTLE ROYALE-style set-up brings together a bunch of brand-new characters, including fan favourite Kirk R Thatcher (STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING) as Jovan, with only Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal), Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donelly) and Man-Thing (Carey Jones) able to trace their roots back to the pages of the source material, at least as far as living characters that is. The recently deceased Ulysses Bloodstone is a pivotal comic book figure and, to be fair, his widow Verussa (Harriet Sansom Harris) could be interpreted as an amalgam of several of Ulysses’ comic book spouses over the years.
Veteran composer Michael Giacchino, here making his directorial debut, proves to be as adept with a camera lens as he is with a conductor’s baton, creating atmosphere and tension throughout its lean just-over-50-minute running time and confined setting. Though fairly light on plot, it rattles along at a fair old pace and thanks to a sympathetically tragically heroic performances by Gael Garcia Bernal and a typically feisty and sardonic turn Laura Donnelly WEREWOLF BY NIGHT keeps your interest throughout, even when the titular terror isn’t on the screen. They’re also helped by Harriet Sansom Harris’ perfectly judged performance providing the necessary levels of operatic theatricality to give the supernatural shenanigans that frisson of classic monster movie mood.
It’s an economical and enjoyably efficient way to both expand the cinematic universe and introduce new characters, something it does more successfully and skilfully than many of its marquee Phase 4 peers managed to do. Crucially – and increasingly rarely in recent Marvel offerings – it leaves you wanting more, not less and for the likes of Kevin Feige and Bob Iger, that should be more chilling than any laboured lycanthropic metaphor I could concoct.