TV Review: ‘Werewolf by Night’

In adapting its comic book source material over the years the bread-and-butter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has understandably been the superheroes with occasional forays into the cosmic side of things. However, with the recent Moon Knight series and the upcoming Blade reboot, the MCU is slowly but surely delving into the horror elements of the Marvel Universe. This is a genre that boomed for the publisher int he 1970’s with books like Tomb of Dracula, Man-Thing, and of course Werewolf by Night. Given that it is the best and spookiest time of the year it is only logical that Marvel and their Disney overlords take us further into this realm.

Upon the death of Ulysses Bloodstone, a collective of monster hunters including his daughter Elsa Bloodstone are summoned to his estate. The reason they have been brought together is to venture into the labyrinthian cemetery to hunt Man-Thing and obtain the powerful mystical artifact, the Blood Stone. Sneaking in among their ranks is the lycanthropy inflicted Jack Russell who forms an alliance with Elsa to save swampy friend. When the truth about what he is is discovered, Jack is taken prisoner and forced to transform. But the hunters soon learn that the werewolf and Elsa may be more than they can handle.

While this is adapted from the 70’s comic of the same name, director Michael Giacchino wisely draws influence from the likes of the Universal Monsters, Hammer Horrors, and the films of Val Lewton. It is a gothic visual feast with far more violence than one normally sees. There is a lot of story ground to cover but the fast-paced screenplay surprisingly sacrifices little in terms of plot while still moving at a solid brisk pace. This benefits from the fact Werewolf by Night does not need to be on the same scale as a Thor: Love and Thunder, it just needs to be an entertaining Halloween special with scares and fun. To this end it is a great success as an enjoyably frightening corner to the blockbuster universe.

As a fan of the old Marvel horror comics, if I had one complaint is that going against MCU tradition there was no post credit scene to hint at the future adventures of Jack Russell, Elsa Bloodstone, and/or Man-Thing. Or even a cameo from another figure from the scarier side of the Marvel Universe like Moon Knight, Whistler, Frank Drake or even a first look of Mahershala Ali as Blade. This is a minor complaint, that mainly arises from my love of these books.

With a fun tip of the hat to classic horror and dash of Marvel action, Werewolf by Night is perfect Halloween seasonal viewing. I hope the success of this special gives the higher-ups at Marvel Studios and Disney the nudge to explore more of the dark and scary corners of the Marvel Universe and the monsters that dwell there.