A Fantastic Fest 2022 Review
An elite group of hunters compete in a deadly monster hunt in Werewolf by Night, a Marvel TV special from director and composer Michael Giacchino. Their prize if they win? Lead the cabal and wield the Bloodstone, a glowing red jewel that will weaken any monsters they encounter. But in order to walk away with the Bloodstone, they’ll need to evade or kill not only a hulking beast, but also their fellow hunters.
Presented primarily in black and white, Werewolf by Night is a loving tribute to classic horror movies, particularly the Universal Monsters films of the 30s and 40s. The near-monochrome colouring gives the special a rich, captivating look and feel that is perfectly complicated by Giacchino’s retro-inspired score.
It’s clear that the director has a deep reverence for these old movies, and Werewolf by Night shines when Giacchino fully leans into this aesthetic, embracing the mysterious and spooky potential of Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron’s script. One particularly effective scene occurs toward the end as the camera pans out from a large cage, the beast within obscured by smoke as we hold our collective breath waiting for it to lunge. And when we do get our first good look at it, we can breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of good-old practical effects in lieu of CGI.
Of course, this is still a Marvel movie, so Werewolf by Night can only venture so far into horror territory. A large chunk of the runtime is taken up with fight scenes, the campy fun of classic horror getting left behind in favour of slick, modern choreography. That’s especially unfortunate given that the special clocks in at under an hour, limiting the amount of time we get to spend with characters when they’re not flipping and kicking. In some cases, such as with Gael Carcia Bernal’s lovable Jack Russell, this works, leaving us intrigued to learn more about this intriguing, conflicted man. But many of the other hunters are left with little to do, only managing to spout a couple of quips before getting killed off.
Ultimately, Werewolf by Night will appeal most to those who enjoy both Marvel movies and classic horror, blending the two seamlessly enough to create a coherent experience that opens the door for more genre exploration in future. For those not charmed by Marvel’s signature quirky humour and fast-paced fight scenes, the short runtime ensures that the special never outstays its welcome, and the aesthetics alone make it worth a watch. What Werewolf by Night lacks in bite, it certainly makes up for in style.
Werewolf by Night debuts on Disney+ on October 7th.
Words: Samantha McLaren (@themeatispeople)