While technically a Marvel property (and therefore another entry in the MCU), the creative team behind Werewolf by Night refreshingly chooses to downplay overt connections to that larger tapestry. MCU fans will no doubt delight in what connections there are, but Michael Giachhino’s werewolf movie is unburdened by needing the prior knowledge that can inhibit enjoyment of other MCU titles (looking at you Multiverse of Madness).
Director: Michael Giacchino
Producers: Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Brad Winderbaum, Leeann Stonebreaker, Trevor Waterson, Brian Gay
Writers: Peter Cameron, Heather Quinn
Cinematography: Zoë White
Editor: Jeffrey Ford
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Harriet Sansom, Harris Kirk, R. Thatcher, Eugenie Bondurant, Leonardo Nam
Runtime: 53 minutes
U.S. Studio/ Distributor: Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige Productions; Disney+
U.S. Release Date: October 7, 2022
Werewolf by Night stands on its own four feet thanks to a knowing script and savvy director. Giacchino makes his directorial debut but is no slouch in the genre-film department. As a composer, his resume includes Up, Coco, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Batman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield, and Star Trek Into Darkness to name a few; however, he has had a hand in every major Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and other major franchise from the past decade. Giacchino understands genre-filmmaking. He is aware of the beats, language, and calling-cards of science fiction, adventure, fantasy, and now with Werewolf, Gothic horror.
Such is the main appeal of the film for movie buffs and classic horror aficionados. Anyone who enjoys horror hits from the 1930s and ’40s will appreciate what Giacchino is striving for. Shadows abound, moody atmosphere beckons, and colorful characters lean into their archetypes. Not to say that Werewolf by Night is campy, mind you; the story is played straight, with the same sincerity that makes The Wolf Man (1941) unforgettable. This is enhanced by the compelling performance of Gael García Bernal, who’s Jack Russell presents as both an every-man and action hero. Harriet Sansom Harris also rocks as the diabolical Verussa Bloodstone.
Where Werewolf differs from The Wolf Man, however, is with the strain of “superhero” in its veins. Despite efforts to downplay connections, it’s still a Marvel movie. Which is great, because why should it ignore its genetic makeup? Characters leap and fly about, set pieces explode, CGI MacGuffins exchange hands, and just when you think a beloved character has met their end… syke, nobody truly dies in a comic book. It’s ultimately a breezy, well-paced 53 minutes.
Werewolf by Night therefore knows the sandbox (dog park?) in which it plays. It is a little 20th century Gothic horror and a little 21st century superhero flick; it knows how to be something for everyone. This, of course, can be a detriment dependent on individual style and taste. Nevertheless, (despite a few quibbles with the black & white), Werewolf by Night is a well-made romp easily worth an hour of your life.
by Vincent S. Hannam