‘Werewolf by Night’ gives Marvel a chance to show its monstrous side


Flexing different muscles, Marvel’s “Werewolf by Night” is a stylish Halloween special designed as a black-and-white homage to the Universal monster movies of the 1930s and 40s. Told with wry humor, tapping into the unexplored quadrants of the comic book lore, it’s a little too over the top and scary for little kids, but a treat for fans as it creates monstrously appealing possibilities.

At a brisk 50 minutes, the show takes a fair amount of comic book lore and starts off the ground, teaming up with a group of monster hunters to compete for the Bloodstone, a supernatural artifact. Led by the widow of monster slayer Ulysses Bloodstone (Harriet Sansom Harris), the group must compete in a contest that can turn them from predator to prey to win the prize.

Ready for this macabre Hunger Games is Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), who fans will instantly recognize as the werewolf from the comics. He’s pursuing a very different agenda, and thanks to Man-Thing, another Marvel character from the early 1970s, he’s not the only monster on the loose. (Notably, Marvel’s recent adaptations of the era have produced a mixed bag, with “Shang-Chi” fitting better than “Eternals”.)

Adding to the ass-kicking resume among the hunters is Bloodstone’s unknown daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly, HBO’s “The Nevers”), who covets the stone despite bad blood with her stepmother.

Prolific film composer Michael Giacchino helmed the project, and graces it with a gorgeous musical score, and the occasional flash of red to enhance the atmospheric black-and-white imagery. Obviously, it appealed to those with fond memories of werewolves, Lon Chaney Jr. in the show that saw him walking through misty fields and seeing Frankenstein run away from the farmer with his teeth.

As noted, this isn’t to be confused with kid-oriented fare, and while the cinematography blurs the gory edges, it’s aimed at a more sophisticated palate, the way DC’s live-action Blu-ray animated films adapt the material more. considering the sensitivities of adults.

If the special represents a modest experiment — a way to open up Marvel’s vault to a darker strain of horror content as the studio absorbs its Netflix and Fox offshoots and Disney+ expands its standards — then it’s a wise calling card. Seen in that light, “Werewolf by Night” could indeed be the dawn of an interesting new day.

“Werewolf by Night” premieres October 7 on Disney+.