The latest addition to the MCU is a complete departure from what we’ve seen so far but it is certainly a most welcome one. While not a tale of capes and cowls, Werewolf by Night has been part of the Marvel library for 50 years, making its first appearance in 1972’s 2nd issue of Marvel Spotlight.
Neither show nor full length feature, Werewolf by Night is presented as a ‘Special Presentation’ in the style of the classic Universal Studios monster films like Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein and so forth.
Complete with practical effects, black-and-white cinematography and a score by Michael Giacchino, hailing back to the works of Bernhard Kaun, Werewolf by Night feels like a callback to the golden age of monster movies.
The premise is simple, a group of monster hunters are summoned to the Bloodstone Manor to compete against one another to determine their new leader as well as dominion over the powerful Bloodstone. As an added complication, the Bloodstone is attached to a monster which roams the estate and the hunters may only use designated weapons strewn throughout the grounds.
Clocking in at just under an hour, Werewolf by Night is a tight and focused film that doesn’t waste time with needless exposition or deep analysis of its characters. The audience gets a brief introduction to the hunters, 2 of them clearly selected as the main points of interest and uses a show-not-tell method for fleshing out Elsa Bloodstone and Jack Russell (yes, really).
The set pieces and monsters look absolutely fantastic and the action scenes are pretty solid too, the only gripe I have with Werewolf by Night are the Bloodstone estate guards as they are adorned with modern body armour and weapons. There’s no prominent indication as to when the story is set but the fact that the guards are clearly from a contemporary era broke the immersion of the atmosphere it was trying to cultivate.
Of course, that’s me just nit-picking, unfortunately, given what social media has taught us, oftentimes the most toxic viewers of a movie or show, is its own fanbase. So, of course people had something to piss and moan about. In this case, fans were up in arms about the fact that there is no after credits scene in Werewolf by Night. Good! Is what I say.
Werewolf by Night was commissioned as a spooky season/Halloween entry and that’s where it should stay. It didn’t have any immediately obvious ties to any of the other MCU movies and shows (though I’m sure there are easter eggs hidden somewhere) and most importantly, its strengths lie with the fact that it has divorced itself from the MCU. It doesn’t need to be part of the greater cinematic universe. Is it not enough that it can stand up by itself? I don’t understand the fascination with everything having to be connected to some over-arching (oftentimes overbearing) greater continuity that requires viewers to consume every scrap of Marvel media just so one is able to stay aloft of what’s going on.
I enjoyed Werewolf by Night for what it is. A homage to the golden age of horror films. While the film certainly succeeds in emulating a dated aesthetic – even going so far as to add cue marks to the picture in the fashion of vintage film projectors (as seen above), don’t let this deter you from checking it out. Who knows, Werewolf by Night may even reignite an interest in the ‘Karloffian‘ era of horror film making.