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Werewolf by Night Review: Fantastic Fest 2022

One of my favorite aspects of Marvel Studios’ output so far is that it feels like it’s starting to compartmentalize a bit. Want cosmic adventure? Here’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Want street-level action? Try some Daredevil. Espionage and intrigue? The Winter Soldier or Black Widow await you.

Much like the comic books, there are tracks you can follow to your hearts content, and you don’t have to consume all of it (even if Marvel wants you to). It’s a cafeteria buffet, and you can pick and choose.

Werewolf by Night Review

One of the weirder tracks is Marvel’s horror line, with books like Tomb of Dracula, Blade, or Marvel Zombies. Those books, especially in the 1970s, were an odd marriage of Marvel superheroes and EC Comics sensibilities, and they were their own little space in the Marvel continuity. Inspired by classic Universal monster movies, they rarely interfered with the main storylines but were fun and strange on their own.

Now, Marvel Studios dips into that aspect with Werewolf by Night, based on the comics, which premiered for Fantastic Fest attendees last night ahead of its Disney+ debut. It’s a one-off episode, roughly an hour long, and it wears its influences on its sleeve.

Werewolf by Night Review

Shot in black and white, with tongue planted firmly in cheek by director/composer Michael Giacchino, it’s a direct homage to the monster movies we all grew up with as well as those weird comics from our youth.

Werewolf by Night centers around a monster hunt, where hunters from all over the world vie to win the Bloodstone, a gem with mystical powers. This gem was in the hands of the Bloodstone family, but with the death of their patriarch it’s now up for grabs for anyone capable of slaying a captured creature on the grounds of the Bloodstone mansion.

Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal) is taking part, but he has his own agenda, as does Lisa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly), who has been ostracized by her family and wants to find a way back in. As the hunt begins, no one is safe.

Time will tell if Werewolf by Night will become something more in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon, but I welcome any opportunity for Marvel to break from the mold. Werewolf by Night is surprisingly violent, but it’s also shot in black and white, to avoid all that blood and gore upsetting the kids too much.

I love how Giacchino pays homage to the monster movies of old — even going so far as to have cigarette burns in the corner like some beat up 35MM film print! — but also introduces horror to the MCU in a fresh, compelling way.

There are Easter Eggs galore, but they don’t overpower the narrative. One particular Marvel Easter Egg will have fans talking – the introduction of Man-Thing, a Marvel monster with a very loyal fan base and an interesting history in the comics. Done with a mix of CGI and practical effects, I was especially excited to see this weird character make an appearance, and I hope it’s not the last.

There’s a rich history of Marvel horror, but it may not tonally fit with the stories the studio has done so far. But I like that Marvel is attempting to bring all of it in in some manner, because there are a lot of very fun, weird stories there.

Dracula, in particular, has a very strange story arc in Marvel comics, and if Werewolf by Night is the first dipping-of-the-toe into these types of stories, I welcome it.

With Blade on the horizon, and Marvel seemingly getting into grittier fare with Daredevil and Thunderbolts, there’s room for all of it in the pantheon, and fans should have a lot to explore and enjoy in the years to come.

Werewolf by Night hits the Disney+ platform on October 7th, 2022, just in time for Halloween. You can watch the trailer here.

Werewolf by Night Review

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