WEREWOLF BY NIGHT. Marvel meets horror
Marvel is adding another element to its streaming-cinema universe and, after movies, shorts and series, starts to build a new segment of entertainment, which will be holiday special productions. The first of these is Werewolf by Night, which debuted on Disney+ to celebrate the upcoming Halloween, and the officially announced production about Guardians of the Galaxy is not expected to be the last.
Werewolf by Night takes us to a dark corner of the Marvel universe and introduces us to a brotherhood of monster hunters who have gathered to bid farewell to their deceased leader. During a peculiar funeral ceremony, those gathered learn that they will take part in a deadly battle for a powerful artifact – a hunt where they will come face to face with a dangerous beast.
An old horror movie in a new part of the Marvel universe
The production surprises us from the first seconds with its form and content. Almost all of it is in black and white, stylistically and plot-wise it harks back to the great classics of horror cinema, such as the monster productions made by Universal studio in the 1930s. Surprisingly, too, by the standards of titles signed with Kevin Feige’s name, the whole thing adheres quite strongly to the horror style, showing us severed limbs, slit throats and oozing blood. Sure, everything is subtly filtered through convention so as not to go too literal, but still present.
Other than that, it’s hard to say anything more about Werewolf by Night, as its main strength remains just playing with the conventions of old horror. Nevertheless, at least two casting choices can undoubtedly be praised: the charismatic Gael García Bernal in the lead role and Harriet Sansom Harris stealing the viewer’s attention as the leader of a sorority of hunters. Also great on screen are the special effects, the beast mentioned in the second paragraph, in which all Marvel Comics fans will find the iconic character of this world, Man-Thing. There’s also a well done soundtrack, written by the director of Werewolf by Night himself, composer Michael Giacchino. A creator for years associated with Disney, for whom the film reviewed here was a directorial debut.
Werewolf by Night remains an enjoyable silly project, thanks to its duration (less than an hour) that is not tedious and has fun with the classics, while never going further than a certain self-imposed level.
Waiting for "Blade"
What may perversely turn out to be most interesting about this Halloween special is not the film itself, but Marvel’s decision to make it. Although the title does not connect to the main events of the universe, it drops the hook of expanding it with slightly more mystical and horror elements. Thus laying a great foundation for Blade’s debut and, hopefully, treating Giacchino’s film as a kind of testing ground before we see the production with Mahershala Ali. After all, in Blade Marvel will have to prove (once it finds a new director) that it can smoothly maneuver between horror elements and its typical familial approach.
Werewolf by Night confirms one thing without a doubt. The fourth phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is a place for experimentation, reaching for new solutions and exploring this world with a lightness not yet achieved during the so-called Infinity Saga. If someone had told me as recently as two years ago that I would be able to watch another episode of a legal series in the vein of Sex in the City (She-Hulk) and a black-and-white laudation of 1930s horror films in the same week as a Marvel Studios production, I simply wouldn’t have believed it.
This review was originally published on Film.org.pl and has been translated into English.