Marvel’s ‘Werewolf by Night’ special stylistically shines with unique horror focus


Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Werewolf by Night visually and themetically sets itself apart from the MCU in a horror special.

Ellory Rose Hankla, Contributing Writer

The newest edition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a unique twist on the superhero movies and TV shows that Marvel Studios is well-known for, and it is the studio’s first foray into the horror genre. “Werewolf by Night,” released as a Disney+ special as part of the streaming service’s Halloween themed originals, brings the MCU into a different direction and creates a unique viewing experience. 


“Werewolf by Night, directed by veteran Disney composer, Michael Giacchino, takes inspiration from classic horror films, which is most clearly seen in the black and white style of the special, with almost all of the movie taking place in a monochromatic view. Even the iconic Marvel Studios intro pays homage to characteristic monster movies, with werewolf claw scratches and “Frankenstein” style lightning. Many of the special effects  give the viewers the feeling that they are watching an older horror film rather than a modern-day Marvel movie. 


The movie takes a look at the other side of the Marvel Universe, choosing to focus on the “darkness” that is often ignored in a world of heroes. The opening tells the story of Ulysses Bloodstone, a famed monster hunter who has passed, and is holding a contest of his closest co-hunters to see who inherits his powerful artifact, the Bloodstone. Beyond this brief exposition, the viewer is thrown directly into the action, giving the audience just enough information to understand the plot, but not too much that the backstory excessively takes over the shorter run-time. 


“Werewolf by Night” also focuses on introducing brand new characters to the MCU, rather than drawing upon well-used heroes from the rest of the universe. The introduction of these unfamiliar faces leaves much room for mystery, causing the viewer to question who to trust, especially the mysterious Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal) and Bloodstone’s estranged daughter, Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly.) 


Bernal’s performance gives life to the titular werewolf from classic Marvel Comics, while adding his own twist to the character that meshes perfectly with the feel of the special. He establishes an aura of mystery around Jack Russell, and though die-hard fans may recognize his character, viewers less versed in the comics will have plenty of time to discover the character on their own, guided by Bernal’s interpretation. Donnelly fully embraces her role as Elsa Bloodstone, displaying her distaste for monster hunting, leaving the audience to wonder why she is in the competition at all. Donnelly’s portrayal of Bloodstone as a closed off, secretive character leaves audiences to learn about her as the movie goes on, as Bloodstone and Russell each have ulterior motives that quickly align. 


For a cinematic series that seems to get longer and longer with each movie and TV show, Marvel refreshingly displays with “Werewolf by Night’s” almost 1-hour run-time that not all of the franchise’s stories must take hours to tell, and don’t always require 27 movies and 6 series worth of pre-watching to understand. The special effects and plot devices are perfect for a spooky month watch party, especially for Marvel fans. Overall, Marvel has produced a Halloween special with an invigorating new style, and despite being lesser-known, hopefully Marvel can use this style to tell more unique stories from their wide universe, giving old fans new content and potentially introducing new fans to the franchise.