Where to Stream It? Disney+
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Harriet Sansom Harris
Directed by: Michael Giacchino
One of the best things Marvel Studios has done over its history is dip their toes into different genres. While their superhero origins have remained consistent, audiences have been treated to everything from spy thrillers to comedies. Their newest entry, the first of what they call “special presentations,” is their first true foray into the horror genre. And it delivers in bloody spades.
A New Dimension of the MCU
Wildly separated from its caped headliners, Werewolf By Night takes place in a single manor, where a secret society of monster hunters comes together to compete for a powerful artifact (the repercussions of such an item's existence could have huge ramifications in future projects). What ensues is a violent, dark event that is thrilling and exciting.
Where this 54-minute film really excels is in its stellar production design. First-time director Michael Giacchino makes this project in a throwback to the classic '30s horror films that first put Universal on the map. And the film takes advantage of it. Everything from its black-and-white aesthetic to its clever use of lighting and camera angles make it one of the best singular-produced projects Marvel has done in all of Phase Four so far.
Werewolf By Night’s use of violence and horror also prove to be a standout. While not the most violent or bloody thing in the world, it’s definitely heavier than most of Marvel’s more family-friendly fare. And it bares its teeth (literally in this case) with a brutal final act that will leave unaccustomed viewers in shock.
Lastly, the film takes full advantage of its two lead actors. Gael Garcia Bernal is brilliant as the titular character and once his ferocious transformation occurs he physically owns every scene. Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone also contributes a stellar performance in her limited screen time but she chews up the scenery.
It’s A Short Night, However
For all its greatness, and there is quite a bit, there is still one glaring problem that left me dissatisfied at the end of it. Clocking in at 54 minutes, it tells a lot of story for such a short period of time. It’s a blessing considering the previous 15 minutes shorts we used to get in the MCU, but I still wish with this level of a concept and high of production quality, we could have spent a little more time in this new corner of the Marvel Multiverse.
And of course, as with every aspect of the MCU, this film does mostly stand out on its own without much, if any, connecting tissue. While that is a negative to some, I was glad we were able to focus on these characters instead of constantly trying to focus on where this short places in the wider universe.
It does seem like Marvel is currently planning to continue with these “Special Presentations” as they’re calling them. The next of which will be the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special in November. If they approach this with the same level of detail, this leaves me way more interested.
In the end, for those who want that classic '30s monster movie fixed with some amazing production and top-notch performance, Werewolf By Night will definitely scratch that itch. Here’s hoping Marvel can continue this quality moving forward and take some of the wild swings they dared to with this one.