Welcome to another Spooktober review! I want to start off by saying that this was a bit of an ambitious watch for me because I am a certified scaredy cat who is terrified of anything bloody or gory. But after reading some seriously positive reviews about Werewolf by Night on Twitter, I knew I had to give it a shot. Werewolf by Night is Marvel Studio’s first ever Special Presentation. It’s got horror, it’s got action, it’s got fantasy, and it’s overall a great watch for Halloween. And with a short 53 minute runtime, it’s a quick and easy watch to enjoy. Despite having to look away a couple times during the more violent scenes (yes I know it’s shot in black and white but still!), I can honestly say I was wowed by the execution of this special and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing from start to finish.

Elsa Bloodstone terrified as she watches Jack Russell transform into a Werewolf

I’ll be completely honest here, when Werewolf by Night was first announced during Marvel Studio’s panel at Disney Expo D23, I kind of just shrugged it off. Horror related genres usually aren’t my jam and I stay away from them, so I didn’t think I was ever going to watch this one. One thing I did find particularly intriguing about this special presentation and what really caught my eye was the fact that Michael Giacchino was directing it. I am a huge fan of exploring film soundtracks and Giacchino is a world class composer who has an amazing discography including Star Trek (2009), Mission: Impossible III (2006), a number of Pixar movies, and a number of Marvel movies. I never knew he had an interest in directing and I felt very curious as to whether or not he could succeed in delivering a well executed story. Let me tell you, he sure did.

To my surprise, I really really loved Werewolf by Night and was incredibly impressed by the acting, writing, and direction of the special. I feel like Giacchino managed to create something distinctly special and was able to deliver a fully cohesive story packed with interesting characters within such a short time frame. The pacing was excellent – it felt like something was happening every second but there was still enough time to develop the characters and progress the story in a way that made sense. These shorter films have the potential to really bring Marvel in the right direction given how burnt out many of us feel their constant output of content.

The beginning of the monster hunters quest

I found myself being completely invested in the story and loved that it opened up this new, darker world within the Marvel universe that fans can look forward to. I heard that Blade was initially meant to appear as a cameo in Werewolf by Night, but was unable to do to scheduling conflicts. Still, it’s nice to see Marvel giving us a bit of an introduction to the world of monsters and monster hunters.

The cast for Werewolf by Night was small but mighty, consisting of Gael Garcia Bernal as Jack Russell, Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone, and Harriet Sansom Harris as Verussa Bloodstone. The acting to me was top notch and I was pleasantly surprised by Bernal and Donnelly’s ability to develop a strong chemistry despite their short and small interactions. With this smaller cast, it allowed the film to feel more personal and intimate. I liked that it didn’t feel super grand or large compared to other Marvel projects, and that it felt like a nicely packed self-contained story that opened the possibility of seeing these characters (and others like them) in the future. My favourite character had to be Jack because I loved Bernal’s portrayal of him. He was this weird but effective mix of innocent, kind, and clumsy; there was a real humanity to his character that made him likeable, although I guess he does transform into a werewolf and kill innocent people.

Gael Garcia Bernal as Jack Russell

While there was a lot that was done well in Werewolf by Night, I thought the execution of the atmosphere and tone was the most impressive. It definitely is a scary watch and there’s this heavy brooding feeling that follows you throughout the story. Is there only impending doom awaiting us at the end or do we hold onto a sliver of hope? I was on edge while watching (mostly due to the fact of my utter wimpiness) but at the end of the day, it really added to my experience. I loved that it was filmed in black and white because not only did it make the special feel vintage and fantastically stylish, it added to the eerie atmosphere that set the tone for the entire story. This honestly felt like it came out of left field from Marvel, but I LOVED it. We seriously needed this switch up – I’ve been desperately hoping for something fresh and unique from them and this really delivered.

And with Giacchino directing Werewolf by Night, I was also expecting him to compose the score which he did. The music did exactly what it needed to do and I never had a doubt that he wouldn’t be able to excel in this area. The soundtrack consistently matched the tone of the scene and blended in perfectly to create a wonderful atmosphere that heightened the viewer’s emotions and building anxiety.

The entrance to the maze for the monster hunters

I just really can’t compliment enough how different Werewolf by Night was compared to most Marvel movies. Although this was just a short special, it captured all the elements that we love from Marvel while still feeling bold and adventurous. For instance, it’s not Marvel without some action and there certainly was some in this special. The fight sequences were well choreographed and shockingly violent which matched the overall dark vibe. While there were some use of CGI (which I thought were effective), I love love loved their decision to implement prosthetics and practical effects.

And of course, it’s not Marvel without a bit of comedy. While the overall tone is spooky and creepy, Giacchino somehow managed to incorporate moments of levity and intimacy. There are quick bits of humour added in, but just those simple snappy comments are enough to brighten the mood and make you feel less anxious. What I really appreciated were the more quiet and gentle conversations between Jack and Elsa. Not only did we get to understand a bit more about their characters, their exchanges felt pure and sweet.

Jack Russell with Ted

If you’re really feeling that Halloween vibe and you’re looking for more ways to get into that festive mood, please check out Werewolf by Night. Given how violent it is, I’m genuinely surprised by how much I liked it, but there’s certainly a lot that deserves high praise. If you’re antsy like me and can’t deal with violence but you want to watch this, my advice to you is that it’s very obvious when you need to look away – if I can do it so can you! After some thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided to give Werewolf by Night an amazing 9/10. Perfectly fitting for the upcoming holiday and with all the vintage flair needed to revitalize my hopes for Marvel Studios, I really recommend you give this one a watch. It’s a relatively quick watch and the story wraps up quite nicely, but it’ll leave you wanting more and feeling curious about this new and unexplored world of monsters (and a good way to set up Blade!).