Werewolf by Night is among the less irksome MCU products of late, but it’s still not more than a minor goof of little consequence to anyone but the most diehard fans.
Just in time for spooky season, Marvel drops Werewolf by Night, a Marvel entry that is neither a full-length feature nor a series, but rather a one-off holiday special based on some relatively obscure horror-themed titles. As MCU tokens go, it’s largely and blessedly free of the usual insistence that you need to have kept up with all the other films and series, but it’s also nothing more than a minor goof, with a few cornball stylistic tics doing an awful lot of sweating to shore up what’s mostly just a series of adequate fight scenes.
On some dark and stormy night, a group of “hunters” has gathered at the estate of Ulysses Bloodstone, a renowned killer of monsters and keeper of a powerful artifact called, cleverly, the Bloodstone. He’s dead, and the hunters have all come to compete for the right to keep and protect the jewel. Among them is Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), who boasts the highest kill-count of all of these folks, and Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), estranged daughter of Ulysses who, of course, has her own motives. They’re all set loose on the estate to see who can trap and destroy a powerful monster (another legacy Marvel character whose presence would be one of those spoilers people get worried about).
The whole thing runs a brisk 52 minutes, credits included. Both lead performers are charismatic enough, but the characters don’t have much meat on them; mostly, this is just a series of wisecracks and stunts. Making his directorial debut, composer Michael Giacchino does a perfectly competent job of shooting it all, but there’s nothing overtly idiosyncratic in the direction here. This is, after all, still a Marvel product. The decision to keep most of the proceedings in black and white is a cute one, obviously an homage (along with the “vintage”-looking opening credits) to the monster movies of the heyday ’30s, although the whole thing is also in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which was only used a rare few times during that period; it’s reminiscent of something like what Fincher did with Mank, up to and including the fake reel-change markers. Mileages will certainly vary as to whether or not that’s cute or annoying, but ultimately this is a harmless little bit of Halloween fun, likely a treat for fans but something that everyone else can safely ignore.
You can currently stream Michael Giacchino’s Werewolf by Night on Disney+.