I always say there should be more spooky episodes and specials and it’s insane that the MCU has done it before some of our favourite shows have. With Phase 4 exploring some of the darker elements of the multiverse with characters like the Scarlet Witch, Moon Knight and Daredevil (technically), the addition of Werewolf By Night simply made sense. We’re getting Blade in the future too like let’s get the dark Avengers started! This new addition however did not get a movie or a limited series, no he got a “Special Presentation” and uhhh, maybe a full-on movie would’ve been the better choice because as much as I wanted to love this special, it ended up feeling like it was lacking in some elements but hey, I’m glad the fans can unite to love something for once.
spoilers for ‘Werewolf By Night’ are featured in this review.
When the trailer for ‘Werewolf By Night’ dropped, I was beyond ecstatic, this is everything I ever wanted from Marvel. It looked stylish, bold and different while still maintaining that MCU feel and the thing is, the special does achieve that to a certain extent. I didn’t mind the story, I thought the finale was written well, easily the best part of the entire thing but I did feel like I should’ve gotten more of that. When I saw that this thing was a whopping fifty-something minutes I got scared because I was under the impression it was a half hour like a regular television special. This might be the hottest take of all but I feel like this should’ve been shorter because in reality the thing is split in two. The first half revolves around this contest which I found myself getting bored out of my mind watching and the second part is the special everyone wanted to see. I don’t think that using black and white, decent camerawork and great music carries the vintage monster movie aesthetic Michael Giacchino wanted to achieve. The script wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for the MCU, it had more or less the same value as one in that it was predictable and dull most of the time. It wasn’t particularly spooky either, basically, my biggest gripe with this special is that it did not feel like a Halloween special whatsoever. It’s just a semi-effective, black-and-white MCU project with the same writing problems. It was too long, the pacing dragged on forever and it ended just as it was getting good. So I guess what I’m saying is that it has the reverse problem of a typical MCU project. It’s boring in the beginning but gets good at the end.
As for the new additions this special does contribute, I found Gael Garcia Bernal’s Jack Russel to be a true treat, he was delightful and easily my favourite part of the entire special. He brings something new as an MCU lead which I truly appreciated. His transformation into the Werewolf by Night was great, the gore was surprising but very welcome. That one-shot in the finale where he takes out the guards was incredible. His inviting kindness and warmth is again, very pleasant and I hope we see him more in the future, I would love it if he and Steven Grant/Moon Knight were to interact. As for Laura Donnelly’s Elsa Bloodstone, she was fine, the characters weren’t really all that compelling and she’s nothing out of the ordinary to be completely honest. I thought her backstory was intriguing but the way they went about executing it was just boring in my opinion. Show don’t tell would’ve worked really well here. Harriet Sansom Harris was fabulous as the villain, she was just the right amount of camp and I loved it when the red from the stone would bleed through the black and white. Speaking of visual effects, Man-Thing was definitely a mixed bag. I’m happy the fan reactions seem to be very happy with him but the CGI did not mesh well with the black and white, it felt like it threw away the entire purpose of the reason they used black and white. Man-Thing should’ve been practical effects but maybe that’s just me.
Overall while the music and the visuals mostly carried this special along with a very endearing performance from Bernal, ‘Werewolf By Night’ is not something I see myself wanting to revisit every October. It’s not what I expected and honestly even as a special, with the number of pacing problems and lacking writing, it’s all the more disappointing. I appreciate the special and I love that the fans seem to love this one but all in all, this is just not for me which is sad because I genuinely wanted to love this.
‘Werewolf By Night’ is now streaming as part of Disney+’s ‘Hallowstream’.