Marvel’s first major steps onto the cinematic stage came with 1998’s Blade. 24 years later, the MCU is revisiting the era of horror comics that Blade came from, with the first major on-screen appearance of Jack Russell… the Werewolf By Night.
Title: Werewolf By Night
Cast & Crew
Directed and Scored by Michael Giacchino
Written by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron
Based on characters created by Gerry Conway, Michael G. Ploog, Roy Thomas, and Jean Thomas.
Harriet Sansom Harris as Verussa
Kirk R. Thatcher as Jovan
Eugenie Bondurant as Azarel
Leonardo Nam as Liorn
Daniel J. Watts as Barasso
Al Hamacher as Billy Swan
Carey Jones as Ted/Man-Thing
David Silverman as The Flaming Tuba
Rick D. Wasserman as the Narrator
Richard Dixon as Ulysses Bloodstone (voice)
Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone
Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell/Werewolf By Night
Ulysses Bloodstone, the legendary monster hunter, has died. Normally, the magical artifact of The Bloodstone would go to his oldest child – Elsa – but instead, Ulysses has decided that the stone would instead go to the winner of a competition between monster hunters. Whoever can slay the beast that the family has prepared for this hunt will receive the bloodstone. However, who is more monstrous – the monster, or the hunters?
The overall presentation of the film really leans into a faux-1950s/60s horror film mentality – some of the deliberate camp of the William Castle films and the horror comics of the period, the use of simulated film grain (though not going full Grindhouse artificial film breaks), and really using the black & white presentation of the film to provide a great use of contrast in the film’s lighting – and in the process using black & white to allow for the bloodiest work in the MCU to date. Additionally, the film uses its 1 hour runtime very effectively, it tells the story very effectively with no sense of padding.
It feels odd to introduce the concept of a semi-organized monster-hunting society and then basically wipe it out over the course of the movie.. Also, I’ve seen it mentioned elsewhere, unrelated to this film, that werewolf designs without a snout look more like a bigfoot than a werewolf, and this certainly is the case with Werewolf By Night. Yes, the classic Universal Wolf Man didn’t have a snout either, but more recent successful werewolves have, and I think the lack of snout is to this design’s detriment.
Originality: 3/6 The idea of monster hunters being the real monsters is not particularly a new concept, this is something of a new implementation in the MCU – particularly when doing the implementation while using the trappings of 1950s/60s horror cinema.
Effects: 5/6 The effects work very well. In particular – Man-Thing is wonderfully done and is remarkably emotive, in ways that most cinematic implementations of his DC counterpart haven’t been. The film also uses black & white very effectively for handling the effects, allowing a degree of violence the MCU hasn’t had in the past without it being as overwhelming as it would be in color. On the other hand, there is my complaint under the low point with the Werewolf design.
Production: 5/6 The film does a tremendous job of evoking the feel of period cinema, through the use of lighting and shadow, the set designs, and the use of widescreen. That said – the same use of anamorphic widescreen with black & white also ends up knocking me back a bit at the very beginning, as my brain associates the style of film with movies shot in the Academy aspect ratio.
Acting: 5/6 The performances are generally solid, with a certain degree of camp from most of the cast, especially Hariett Sansom Harris as Verussa.
Story: 4/6 The story is fairly light, serving as a decent introduction to the characters, without necessarily getting bogged down in origin stories (sort of – arguably this is an origin story for Elsa Bloodstone).
Emotional Response: 4/6 This isn’t a particularly scary film, but it is an exciting action-horror film, especially with the trappings of the various hunters fighting each other, with some of the more gruesome injuries that come out of it.
Overall: 4/6 I wouldn’t make Werewolf By Night the centerpiece of my Halloween horror viewing, but I would make it a middle part of a marathon as a less serious work to put after (before) something a little heavier.
In total, receives 30/42.