Werewolf by Night Started Off So Good and Creepy
Werewolf by Night is a fun, campy Marvel show that disappointed me because of its marketing and presentation. If you wanted to see a horror movie done in the Marvel universe with a Deadpool level of R-rated gore, then you’re in for an unpleasant surprise.
Mostly, anyway. Spoiler warning for this review. I will reveal later twists to illustrate my point. And that’s because, as you watch Werewolf by Night, you’ll lower your guard. The opening is that stellar. It’s got everything you could want for a horror story like this. The setting and location are incredible, with an atmospheric and gothic-style hunting room populated by a varied cast of monster hunters. Making everything black and white that isn’t the magic amulet was an inspired choice, setting the tone perfectly. I was beaming in my seat as this initial part set up an almost murder-mystery vibe, full of macabre humor and quiet menace.
The Aesthetic Maintains A Masterfully Presentation
Even when the plot pivoted to a death-game-style challenge, I was totally on board. A moody soundtrack, long, suspenseful moments, and hiding the monster makes for a potent cocktail. I was ready for jump scares and characters meeting gory ends. I would’ve happily sat through a movie of mostly that.
And credit where it’s due: we get a few tense moments—but then the story derails to become something else. We learn what this was all along: a Marvel special. The random bouts of comedy and heavy martial arts fighting all play as it always does. It becomes almost a Captain America movie if not for the aesthetic trappings.
The Marvel Formula Somehow Overtakes This Film
And once this happens, the horror fades out almost completely. There’s one incredibly well-shot and well-acted scene where Laura Donnelly’s character cowers in fear, but that’s the last good spot. From there, it’s seeing an old-school werewolf design fight a room of mooks like any other superhero—but with more gore. It’s a big ole brawl, not a graphic slaughter. Once the werewolf used a seemingly wrestling move, I checked out.
And I must clarify that it’s not the acting’s fault. The actors are doing great, and each brings something fun to the role. Laura Donnelly’s Elsa Bloodstone reminded me heavily of Constantine from The Sandman in the best way. Gael García Bernal’s Jack Russell was charming and made otherwise disappointing scenes engaging. Harriet Sansom Harris gets a delightfully campy evil villain performance that was fun the entire time. Even the hunters and the butler have one or two tiny moments to make them feel like characters, not just potential victims.
At Least Werewolf by Night Has An Enjoyable Cast
Instead, the failures of Werewolf by Night almost entirely come down to how the plot gotchas and McGuffins its way around what should’ve been a simple horror tale. The magic stone can suddenly do things that make little sense. The plot shifts to a different plot halfway through. And the mystery—if the goal was to have a genuine mystery—is all but revealed instantly.
I loved what Werewolf by Night should’ve been, and I still want to see Marvel commit to a pure horror project. Parts of Multiverse of Madness already proved Marvel can pull off appropriately disturbing imagery. This special is the halfway point between many things, not succeeding at any of them. The camera work, effects, and tone are all there—but they couldn’t help themselves. If you were looking for something to watch for Halloween, Werewolf by Night simply isn’t it.
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