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Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell in a still from Werewolf by Night, co-starring Laura Donnelly and directed by Michael Giacchino. This 53-minute-long, gory ode to classic monster movies is unlike anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and presents exciting possibilities for future productions. Image: Marvel Studios

Review | Disney+ movie review: Werewolf by Night – Marvel Cinematic Universe pays homage to monster movies from the 1930s and ’40s

  • Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, this black-and-white, 53-minute-long, bloodthirsty tale about monster hunters in a house honours the classic monster movie era
  • Unlike anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, this eccentric feature opens the door for explorations of more spooky MCU characters in the future

3/5 stars

Timed to get fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the Halloween mood, Werewolf by Night is a delightfully nostalgic throwback to the classic monster movies of the 1930s and ’40s, with a number of intriguing firsts.

This 53-minute-long horror homage is the first project to be labelled as a “Marvel Studios Special Presentation” – a stand-alone television feature within phase four of the MCU.

A bloodthirsty tale of werewolves and death dealers, it is Marvel’s first wholly black-and-white offering, and marks the directorial debut of Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino.

Werewolf by Night also marks the first on-screen appearance of Marvel’s eponymous lycanthrope, portrayed here by Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.

Werewolf’s human alter ego Jack Russell is part of a cadre of monster hunters who are invited to Bloodstone Manor, following the death of its owner, Ulysses Bloodstone.

Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone in a still from Werewolf by Night.

By the light of the full moon, the attendees, including Ulysses’ estranged daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly), are charged with hunting down a rampaging beast, later identified as Man-Thing – a large, humanoid swamp monster – in order to acquire a powerful gemstone.

The short running time harks back to classic monster films like Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolf Man (1941) – both of which had a running time of around 70 minutes. This makes Werewolf by Night unique in the MCU, in that it’s neither long enough to be considered a movie, nor an episode in the growing gallery of series populating the Disney+ platform.

However, this abandonment of established formats is an encouraging step forward for Marvel. Werewolf may be too risky a prospect to headline a stand-alone movie, but in this more modest form the character is free to bare his fangs for a more niche audience.

The special presentation’s very existence reveals Disney’s eagerness to explore the darker, more obscure characters that lurk in the dusty corners of Marvel’s vast stable.

Harriet Sansom Harris as Verusa in a still from Werewolf by Night.
Kudos must be given to Marvel president Kevin Feige for allowing Giacchino creative freedom in this project, as Werewolf by Night is undeniably eccentric, and exhibits a ravenous bloodlust that would be far from fitting for an Avengers movie.

The plot of this Twilight Zone-esque episode ignores Russell’s origins, and only flirts with his murderous moonlit exploits. But there is no shortage of gruesome gore on display from the rest of the malevolent miscreants that feature.

Whether Werewolf, Man-Thing or Elsa Bloodstone will reappear in the MCU further down the line remains to be seen, but the fact that this spooky little oddity exists at all teases at endless possibilities.

A still from Werewolf by Night.

Werewolf by Night is streaming on Disney+.

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