Werewolf by Night Review: MCU takes a refreshing dip into its dark side with this retro horror

Marvel brings out its monsters from the hiding with their new TV special, Werewolf by Night. Read Pinkvilla's review of the movie below.

Published on Oct 07, 2022   |  08:08 AM IST  |  364.2K
Werewolf by Night Review
Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Jack Russell in Werewolf by Night.

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Harriet Sansom Harris

Director: Michael Giacchino

Rating: 3.5/5

Language: English

Werewolf by Night is Marvel's newest offering for streaming and the TV special, chronicles the events of a night at the Bloodstone Temple where monster hunters gather following the death of their leader. The sombre night soon turns into an action-packed one as the cabal of monster hunters enter a competition against one another to win a powerful relic. Also competing for the relic is Ulysses Bloodstone's estranged daughter and heir Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly). Among the competitors are some deadly monster hunters such as Jack Russell (Gael García  Bernal), Al Hamacher as Billy Swan, Eugenie Bondurant as Linda, Kirk Thatcher as Jovan and d Leonardo Nam as Simon. The deadly night of the competition that asks the monster hunters to hunt down a wild creature is hosted by Ulysses Bloodstone's widow, Verusa Bloodstone (Harriet Sansom Harris). Who will succeed at obtaining the powerful bloodstone is what is left to see.

Plus Points:

While it's great to watch Marvel develop superhero stories over the years, it is through projects like Werewolf by Night that the studio truly proves that they are not here to settle for content that's crowd-pleasing and without any creative risks. As a Halloween special, Werewolf by Night seems like a perfect choice to introduce fans who have not been familiar with the dark side of MCU which also consists of monster hunters. In terms of its storyline, it's worth praising how simplistic and straightforward the plot remains for this horror adventure that sets itself up for a sleek 53-minute runtime. The black-and-white feature also packs nostalgia and nods to several classics in the genre and it's a delight to dive into this unseen side of Marvel. The special effects are retro and blend perfectly well with the vibe that director Michael Giacchino wants to create. Not to mention what great chemistry Gael García Bernal and Laura Donnelly build in such a short amount of time. 

Minus Points:

Even as Werewolf by Night remains entertaining for the most part, for those who are not familiar with the horror genre or its Hollywood history, this TV special could seem like a random offering. The horror tropes may seem a little worn out for someone who is unaware of the homages that the film tries to pay. The film also never becomes an out-and-out gore-fest that Halloween fans may be looking forward to.

Opinion:

Composer-turned-director Michael Giacchino brings his absolutely detailed and incredible knowledge into the world of classic horror into this film and that's probably the most impressive thing. The way the rapport between Garcia's Jack and Laura's Elsa is built, it's no less than the chemistry shared by The Wolfman's  Larry aka The Wolf Man, and Gwen Conliffe. Giacchino also packs the film with nods to other classics such as Nosferatu and Frankenstein movies from the early 40s. Considering the horror genre today is populated with CGI-filled elements and sophisticated sound mixing that forcefully jolts you more than the visuals, Werewolf by Night is a refreshing step away from it as it goes completely retro with its music as well.

Expressionist horror which was particularly a part of the early 1920s silent films gets and beautiful homage in this modern-day horror created by Giacchino who gets ample help from his stellar cast in recreating something that's satisfyingly un-Marvel. Although for those who feel like there may be absolutely no connection between the Marvel that you know and this film, there's a small twist that will certainly get you excited. Minus all the superhero powers, it's a breath of fresh air to see some blood-spattering happening as the monster hunters go against each other in this film and for those with a taste for dark elements, the film offers a decent amount of gore. 

One of the best decisions taken to introduce to Marvel's darker heroes like Jack Russell in this film is also how the studio takes a step back from forcefully turning it into a six-hour story. The TV special with a 52-minute runtime seems beyond perfect to gauge how the audience will be reacting to it and also gives Giacchino the right amount of time to explore the characters without digging too deep into the comic book world which could confuse fans. 

In terms of performances, Gael García Bernal who is known for his charming personality and his ability to convey less with words and more with his body language is a perfect choice to essay Russell and embraces the duality of his character well as we later watch him turn into the werewolf. The dynamic between him and Laura Donnelly is special. Laura also impressive takes on the role and is particularly amazing in the action bits of the film. Also, Harriet Sansom Harris does an excellent job as the Bloodstone matriarch hosting the rather macabre night of monster-hunting at the eerie manor. 

Another major win for the film also happens to be its delightful climax which not only is captured in colour but also features a team-up that you would expect Marvel to cash in on with another project. 

Highlights:

  • Gael García Bernal's performance as Jack Russell.
  • Michael Giacchino's direction with a homage to classic horror.
  • A crisp runtime of 52 minutes with a refreshingly simple story.

Summary:

Werewolf by Night seems like the perfect beginning for Marvel to venture into the darker comics. If you were fazed by the disastrous attempt from the studio when it came to bringing Morbius, be rest assured that with Werewolf by Night they are redeeming themselves. Hopefully, the studio won't be wasting away a talent like Gael García Bernal with just one project and fans can expect him to return again.

Werewolf by Night review

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A writer with 6 years of experience, addicted to coffee, films, and sarcasm. Currently exploring all things Hollywood...

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