A frightening figure slowly emerges from the fog. Its shadowy, clawed hand reaches out. A flash of lightning reveals –– “Werewolf by Night.” While it may have flown under the radar, this hour long Marvel television special on Disney+ delivers a spooky and entertaining story.
The story is set in a dark world filled with all sorts of monsters and hunters that kill them for sport. Elsa Bloodstone, played by Laura Donnelly, arrives to attend the funeral of her famous monster-hunting father. To win back a powerful relic that belonged to him, she participates in a “Hunger Games”-style competition against other hunters and a mysterious monster. Another hunter, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, also plays a key role in the story. If this doesn’t sound like a typical installment in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, that’s because it isn’t.
One thing that sets “Werewolf by Night” apart from other current MCU installments is the fact that viewers don’t need to watch the 37 prior films to understand the story. This movie offers an entirely self-contained plot centered around fresh characters in a new world. Aside from the opening credits, and any prior knowledge from the source material, there’s no indication that this is a part of MCU.
The film is almost fully produced in black and white, helping it mimic the feel of nostalgic Universal monster movies. “Werewolf by Night” is a clear nod to the style of those films — the cheesy music, film grain and uncomplicated storyline create a fun movie experience.
The black and white format of this movie allows the television special to utilize color in an interesting way. Throughout the story, the bloodstone — the relic of the characters’ desires — glows red. Against a colorless world, this redness stands out to emphasize significance. The lack of color is also a big reason the monsters look as good as they do. When CGI is used to enhance the look of the creatures, it appears very convincing.
The story’s greatest strength is its refreshing simplicity. While there are surprises along the way, the short runtime requires a more streamlined plot. No time is wasted introducing the characters. While viewers may be able to guess what roles each character will play, they are flushed out in a satisfying way throughout the story. In one hour, “Werewolf by Night” manages to produce new characters with realistic goals, which has been lacking in recent MCU installments.
Additionally, “Werewolf by Night” is unlike the rest of the MCU in its tone. Viewers who expect to be entertained by an abundance of jokes will be disappointed. While there is some levity, this is a more serious story.
For those looking for a short popcorn movie with cool monsters and a nostalgic feel, “Werewolf by Night” is a great choice this Halloween season.