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Quick Review: Werewolf By Night
There's No Escaping The Night
The following is my review for the film Werewolf By Night. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I grade films when I review them.
On a dark and somber night, a secret cabal of monster hunters emerge from the shadows and gather at the foreboding Bloodstone Temple following the death of their leader. In a strange and macabre memorial to the leader’s life, the attendees are thrust into a mysterious and deadly competition for a powerful relic - a hunt that will ultimately bring them face to face with a dangerous monster.
We’re reaching that point in the lifespan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where the expectations for originality from the franchise are a high bar to meet. At a time where we’re seeing them about to finish off their most critically divisive phase yet, the demand for something new has never been louder.
Enter a brand new straight to Disney Plus streaming special, Werewolf By Night. Based on the niche comic books, this is directed by none other than Michael Giacchino, the man who just gave us the amazing (and potentially best of the year) score for The Batman.
Again, this is but a TV special more so than a full blown feature film, and its got a runtime of less than an hour. That allows it fly by fast and never feel like its overstaying its welcome. That’s a major plus on its side (to a point as I will elaborate on later) at a time where movies don’t seem to know when to get to the point.
Its shot in black and white and has the aesthetic of an old school classic Universal Monsters film, which as someone who considers those movies formative in making me into a cinephile, that was something I highly appreciated about this. The performances are good, everyone here is having a blast with their roles and chief among them are our lead Gael García Bernal as Jack, Laura Donelly in a supporting role as Elsa, and the one and only Harriet Sansom Harris as the chief antagonist. There’s plenty horror viable moments in this as well given its TV-14 rating and there’s some impressive creature design in this as well.
However I have to say that I was bothered more than I wanted to be by a few things I could pick at. For one the small runtime lead me to feel like I was missing a little bit more context than I wanted from the characters and the story, leaving me feeling like I wanted to see what this would have been like as an actual theatrical, cinematic addition to the franchise. Basically I came away feeling like I needed just a little more from it. I also felt like I was taken out of the movie by some of the cornier dialogue delivered at times, and the creature effects for our titular creature were obviously meant as a homage to the classical wolf man design, but I honestly think a more modern look would have done better in this case.
Overall, I can see why folks have responded as well to this as they have. As a fan of the type of movies and era in horror that this is giving tribute to, I liked more than a few things from this special. But I also felt underwhelmed and wanting in some aspects of the storytelling. Ultimately I think this will hit the spot as a Halloween/Spooky season watch for Marvel fanatics, but I can’t say I was as blown away by this as others were either. This was a decent Werewolf flick with impressive ambition and knowledge.