Michael Giacchino Opens The Spooky, Supernatural Horror Realm Of The Marvel Universe

Jan 4, 2023

Marvel Comics spans a multitude of genres and subgenres beyond traditional superheroes and super geniuses, and over the years, Marvel Studios has tried to explore them all. “Guardians Of The Galaxy” opened up the cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the “Thor” films have been able to examine gods and fantasy, “Doctor Strange” movies unlocked the mystical realms, and recent and upcoming characters like Moon Knight, Daredevil, and Blade seem poised to finally unveil the street-level supernatural sub-genre element of Marvel. Adjacent to this category is Marvel’s spooky horror and supernatural territory, which is finally explored in the new Marvel special presentation “Werewolf By Night.”
Directed by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (the “Spider-Man” trilogy and “Thor: Love & Thunder”), while it may seem like a big leap for a musician to turn filmmaker, in truth, Giacchino went to film school, and filmmaking was his first passion. Giacchino’s affinity for music inadvertently sidelined him when he realized he could fulfill the much-needed niche of his filmmaking peers: the music.
READ MORE: Michael Giacchino Denies ‘Werewolf By Night’ Cameos: “Rumors Are Insanely Inaccurate 99.9% Of The Time”
An homage to 1930s and 1940s classic noir horror films—think Universal’s Monster Universe of “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Werewolf,” “The Mummy” etc., “Werewolf by Night” is clearly a loving aesthetic homage to that era, style, and genre of films shot in similar shadowy, chiaroscuro black and white. While it’s somewhat novel to see this domain rendered within the world of Marvel, it’s debatable whether ‘WWBN’ has much to offer outside of an introduction to this world, three specific characters within it that we’ll see later on, and getting a chance to play within the confines of this genre. Still, at a brief 53 minutes—a short feature or a long-form short, depending on how you look at it—this special presentation is low-key and low-stakes enough that it doesn’t matter if it has much to say and just makes for an entertaining little curio, even if it isn’t at all essential.
The plot of the “Werewolf By Night” is fittingly pretty simple: Ulysses Bloodstone, one of the legendary monster killers, has died, so on a dark, somber and spooky night, his widow Verusa (Harriet Sansom Harris) calls upon the world’s secret cabal of monster hunters to compete in a mysterious and deadly contest to retrieve a powerful mystic relic. All the renowned monster assassins—or at least known to those in this shadowy cabal—are there: Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), Billy Swan (Al Hamacher), Linda (Eugenie Bondurant), Jovan (Kirk Thatcher), and Simon (Leonardo Nam). Even Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly) turns up, the estranged daughter of Ulysses, who has an aversion to her family’s creature-hounding traditions.
The wrinkle in all of it, and it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise if you know the very basics of the “Werewolf By Night” comics—but maybe if you don’t, this is the spoiler alert warning to turn away—is that Bernal’s Jack Russell character is also the character Werewolf By Night, and thus has an ulterior motive to this evening. Elsa Bloodstone isn’t exactly aligned with the mission on hand—killing a mysterious monster that is on the grounds of the Bloodstone estate on this creepy evening—so she ends up at odds with her stepmother and all the other hunters involved in this competition.
Suffice it to say, what is an evening that’s supposed to be about monster hunters killing a monster and recovering a mystical power, gets seriously upended and thrown on its head. However, if it sounds like there are not a lot of surprises involved, well, there aren’t, and you already know from the trailers that the Marvel supernatural creature, the Man-Thing, is involved too.
“Werewolf By Night” has some watchable action sequences, serviceable direction, a nicely visualized form, great music, and even some rare blood and gore for Marvel fans (though given it’s in black and white, it’s not all that grisly, and an easy way for Marvel to get around any R or Mature ratings). At the end of the day, it’s not essential and doesn’t really do anything other than feel like a fun filmmaking exercise in playing with the classic horror genre form; potentially a little bit more fun for the filmmaker than it is for the audience, though results will vary depending on how well you know the genres.
Ultimately, “Werewolf By Night” is entertaining at best, forgettable and disposable at worst, and a quick and easy way to introduce the title character, Elsa Bloodstone and Man-Thing, into the MCU. If anything, the bigger intrigue is where it all goes from here, how it intermingles with the rest of the MCU, if at all, or how it creates its own phantasmagorical wing of the Marvel universe content to play in the shadows and fend off eerie, otherworldly threats. [C+]

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