“Werewolf by Night” – Marvel Finally Goes Full Horror (Spoiler Free Review)

With the zombie episode of What If? and Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has dabbled here and there with the horror genre.   However, the last Disney+ original special, Werewolf by Night is the first to commit to the genre completely.

Paying homage to monster movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s, Werewolf by Night winds up being way better than anyone expected, all while actually being horror instead of just dabbling in horror as the MCU has previously done…

Midnight Hunt
Following the death of famed monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone, a collection of the world’s most prolific hunters gather in order to say their farewells to him, as well as compete to be his successor.  The winner of this hunt will walk away with the Bloodstone itself, thus solidifying their place as the apex monster hunter.

He makes a post-mortem appearance that feels like it’s right out of The Haunted Mansion (in a good way).

Among those who gather for the hunt is Ulysses’ estranged daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly), the seemingly aloof and mild mannered Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal), and overly eager Jovan (Kirk R. Thacher).  There’s a certain animosity toward Elsa right from the get go, given that she was set to inherit the Bloodstone from her father but was disinherited.  However, it’s deemed that she’s allowed to compete like everyone else.

The hunt itself consists of them navigating a labyrinth, all while hunting a monster and fighting each other to eliminate the competition.  Alliances are formed, people are betrayed, and dark secrets are revealed.

Going Full Horror
The opening narration of the special reminds us that this is a world of superheroes, but that monsters also exist.  This one line opens up an entire new mythos to the MCU.  We already have the existence of superpowered beings and creatures, so adding ones like werewolves (and by extent zombies, vampires, and mummies) opens up a whole new well of stories to be told.

Once the titular werewolf is unleashed, this special goes full monster horror and features some pretty brutal maulings and killings.  We’ve had dark moments in MCU media before, but between the black and white visuals, the werewolf subplot, the monster horror involved blood shooting at the camera, it was clear this was very much aimed at horror fans!

It has the style of Universal Monster movies, but the action of modern action.

The whole first half feels like a murder mystery, introducing a myriad of interesting and eccentric characters, while the second half follows a more traditional horror/slasher vibe with the werewolf just destroying everyone in its path.  The black and white serves as an aesthetic choice, but it also helped prevent the special from getting a TV-MA rating due to gore.

There’s a fascinating timelessness to the whole thing as people are dressed like adventurers from the late 1800s/early 1900s, but they do also have electric tasers as weapons.  So this story could easily be set in modern day, or it could be happening simultaneously as Captain America is fighting in Germany.  And not knowing which adds to the mystery.

Future Implications
Move over multiverse and TVA, Werewolf by Night has the greatest implications on the MCU going forward.  We’re now in a world of monsters and monster hunters.  And with upcoming properties like Blade, who knows where this will take us?

Surely this won’t be the last time we see characters like Elsa Bloodstone or Jack Russell.  And with the MCU moving into many different directions, why not go full horror in more than just a Disney+ special?  Why not go full R-rated gore in a future movie that features vampires or zombies?  Werewolf by Night is the first of many steps in that direction!

Russell has a very Bruce Banner vibe to him, always trying to stay in control. And it would be fascinating to see him again!

What did you think of Werewolf by Night?  What other horror projects do you hope to see in the MCU?  Let us know in the comments!

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