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  • Writer's pictureMatt Conway

Werewolf by Night: Review

Werewolf By Night Synopsis: On a dark and somber night, a secret cabal of monster hunters emerge from the shadows and gather at the foreboding Bloodstone Temple following the death of their leader. In a strange and macabre memorial to the leader’s life, the attendees are thrust into a mysterious and deadly competition for a powerful relic—a hunt that will ultimately bring them face to face with a dangerous monster.

The homogenized Marvel brand takes a decidedly new turn in their new B-movie horror special, Werewolf By Night. Disney has discovered unprecedented success with its superhero-based cinematic universe, but the studio’s well-entrenched formula occasionally gets in the way of more innovative pursuits. I think the MCU continues to produce mostly solid, single-base films rather than taking grandiose home run swings creatively.

Werewolf By Night delivers a decidedly different beast – a 40s/50s inspired B-movie cloaked in old-school aesthetics. The results offer a refreshing, albeit narratively uneventful, foray into monster movie filmmaking.

Composer extraordinaire Michael Giacchino is synonymous with a slew of vibrant movie scores (The Incredibles and The Batman). In directing his first feature project, Giacchino displays a similarly expressive voice behind the camera. His sincere embrace of B-movie mechanics creates an inspired hommage that possesses a keen understanding of its genre forefathers.

Atmospheric, black-and-white cinematography and refreshingly practical effects serve as expressive tools in Giacchino’s wheelhouse – techniques that dredge Werewolf By Night with alluring dashes of carnage (a few creative choices allow the film to display a surprising amount of grizzly bloodshed).

Disney’s most significant success here is allowing Werewolf to form its own identity. The 54-minute short eschews the conventional exposition-laded devices driving most MCU features. Instead, Giacchino and the screenwriting team center their focus on a straightforward yet compelling narrative embedded in macabre moodiness. Seeing a Marvel project operate without the genre’s typical life-or-death stakes or homogenized style is refreshing. I hope the superhero brand becomes more willing to take creative risks as they stretch into obscure crevices of comic book lore.

Werewolf by Night represents a promising step forward for Marvel, but the project still shows room for improvement. There are still shadings of MCU tropes embedded in the material, particularly in the film’s awkward inclusion of forced comedic banter. I also wish Giacchino had gone even further with his repurposing of old-school aesthetics. Viewers will likely pick up on some of the same digital tricks often used within the sanitized MCU visual sheen.

Still, Werewolf by Night delivers on the monster movie madness it sets out to achieve. I certainly won’t mind if horror specials like this become a new MCU tradition around Halloween time.

Werewolf By Night is now playing on Disney+.


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