Werewolf by Night is the least MCU entry into the MCU since, well, before the MCU existed. That’s a good thing. Directed by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino, the 53 minute short film debuts on Disney+ October 7 as the first ever “Marvel Studios Special Presentation.” It’s an apt description, because the adaptation of the horror-centric Marvel Comics character is quite special. It may just usher in a whole new side of the universe, and does so in a way that’s a full on love letter to everything monster and monster movie.
Werewolf By Night follows Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal), one of several so-called monster hunters who have been summoned to compete for the Bloodstone, an ancient relic passed through the generations that gives special powers to its holder. Among those competing is Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), daughter of the former owner of the stone and rightful heir, though she has rarely expressed an interest. And so Elsa and Jack, along with several others, must compete to kill a mythical creature, and probably each other too, with the winner winning the Bloodstone. Because this is basically a short film, Giacchino wastes no time. He establishes this is in the MCU, sets up the world, the stakes, the competition, and it’s off to the races. Then, about halfway through, things flip on their head in a way that’s not a surprise at all if you are even an iota familiar with the comics, or really just thinking about the title and ask “Oh, is there going to be a werewolf?”
That speed does hurt the film a little, because so many characters and encounters happen so fast, you can’t really relish them. That goes double for the second half when the titular character becomes prevalent, and his recognizable sidekick (teased in the trailer, but we won’t spoil it here just in case) gets more to do. And while you wish there was more of the characters and action, everything is played with such a pulpy camp that really makes the film stand out. Everyone involved knows they’re in something fun and frivolous, and play it with that extra shot of flair. That goes for Giacchino too. The choice of black and white doesn’t just harken back to the early 20th century when monsters ruled the big screen, it allows him to frame shots with gothic, evocative shadows in them. Get much more violent than most other Marvel movies because the blood looks black, not red. And not worry, at all, about MCU connections because this is a short, sweet, special presentation to introduce a few, cool, new characters in a fun original way.
That last part might displease hardcore Marvel fans, but anyone who watches would be hard pressed to not enjoy Werewolf by Night. It’s a beautiful, over-the-top, entertaining short that would work even if it had nothing to do with Marvel. That it does opens some potential doors for the future is just a bonus. Plus, it shows that in the right hands, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is as malleable as ever.
Co-written by Peter Cameron and Heather Quinn, Werewolf By Night had its public debut at Fantastic Fest 2022. It comes to Disney+ October 7.
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