Marvel’s Horror Homage ‘Werewolf By Night’ Is A Sweet October Treat


Blood is not something the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends to draw our attention to, but in Werewolf By Night, a self-contained 55-minute special made for Disney+, it spills in stylized black. Although Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had some frightening moments earlier this year thanks to horror maestro Sam Raimi at the helm, Werewolf by Night is the first MCU picture that leans throughout its runtime into an authentic horror aesthetic. Inspired by Universal monster films from the 30s and 40s, Werewolf by Night is a fun romp through a classic movie landscape.

The story is simple enough: after the passing of Ulysses Bloodstone, a patriarch in the monster-hunting community, a handful of monster hunters convene at Bloodstone Manor to decide who will take up the mantle and the literal bloodstone itself. This weapon grants power over monsters. To choose a new leader, each contestant, including Ulysses’s estranged daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly), will take to a maze to find a monster and pluck the bloodstone from its hide. The special focuses on Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), a man with big secrets he’ll try to keep hidden as he searches the maze.

As the opening logo sequence suggested through the added claw slashes and agonized screams, this film departs significantly from the typical Marvel milieu. Despite still featuring plenty of impressive fight choreography, the special avoids an over-focus on the competition. Werewolf by Night does well with balancing its Marvel action with quieter moments of tension and characterization. With a longer runtime, it would have had even more room to delve into the shadows and stillness that characterize the films it pays tribute to. Even so, when the excitement of the explosive climax arrives, it feels earned.


Unlike most Marvel movies that belong to their own genre of superhero films, Werewolf by Night is rare in that it borrows so heavily from a different established genre. It grounds its entire aesthetic in the old Hollywood feel, including specks on the “film” and “cigarette burn” cue marks in the top right corner at points. It borrows some of the black-and-white dreaminess of a 30s monster flick with the sleekness of a well-shot blockbuster piece.

At points, the special doesn’t shy away from the weird, including Ulysses as an animatronic corpse at the event. Still, the film could benefit even more from a more substantial commitment to the strange and uncanny. It’s a fun piece, but it may have benefitted from more room to play and be its unusual self.

Despite the story taking up less than 50 minutes, director Giacchino does a lot with a little regarding the characters. Although the committed yet coolly dismissive Elsa could make for a cliched leading lady, Donnelly gives a strong performance that makes her character feel vivid. The same goes for Bernal, who brings an unexpected gentleness and makes it feel like there is a lot more story to be told about Jack. I certainly hope (and believe) that this is not the last we’ll see of his character in the MCU, and if so, it’s a strong introduction for him.

Don’t sleep on Werewolf by Night; it’s good fare even for MCU skeptics. Despite a sense that it could have been an even bolder outing for Giacchino, it’s still one of the most original pieces of comic book media to release this year.

Werewolf by Night is available to stream on Disney+.

by Bishop V. Navarro

Bishop V. Navarro (they/she) is a poet, writer, and media studies scholar from Tampa, Florida. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida and currently pursues a PhD in Communication at USF. Her scholarly work examines boundary vulnerability in horror and science fiction media. You can find her on Twitter, Letterboxd, Instagram, and Tumblr @vnavarrowriter 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.