Written by: Heather Quinn & Peter Cameron
Werewolf By Night/Jack Russell created by: Gerry Conway
Directed by: Michael Giacchino
Produced by: Marvel Studios
Runtime: 52 minutes
Certificate: 16+ (UK)
As self-proclaimed Werewolf obsessed nerd, it should come as no surprise that I took my obsession for lycanthropes into my love of comics, searching for any werewolf related heroes or villains. I started with Blade hunting Vampires since Vamps and Wolves are often associated with one another, and was not disappointed when I heard that there was a series of Marvel comics all about a werewolf. So I got some digital copies on comixology and various other comic reading apps including the official Marvel Comics app, and read Werewolf by Night.
Years later, I found out they were finally adapting my favourite comic book werewolf into a Film Special on Disney Plus and I couldn’t wait to watch it. However it took some time to get around to it but here I am now late to the party!
Delving deeper into the darker side of Marvel, away from the heroes like Thor, Captain America and Iron-Man, we instead find ourselves attending a funeral for Ulysses Bloodstone.
Attending his funeral, are various Hunters who have all come to pay their respects, but more importantly, to earn their rite to wield the legendary Blood Stone. Which grants hunters great strength and skill in battle.
Also in attendance, is Ulysses’ own flesh and blood. His daughter, Elsa Bloodstone has come to claim her birthright but even she has no clue of the strangest stranger among them.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film and I’ll be honest, the first time I watched it upon it’s release I was somewhat disappointed. However, after a second viewing I must say it is without a doubt a very fun and brilliantly made TV Movie.
Keeping the story small whilst opening up a whole new supernatural world for the Marvel Cinematic Universe means that this film is able to deliver a product that is unique from any other Marvel project released so far, and that includes Moon Knight which already broke the barriers of what Marvel could deliver from their established universe. Instead, Werewolf by Night brings us supernatural monsters, the focus of course being on the titular character, the Werewolf but it also introduces Man-Thing into the MCU. Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night were two of the original members of the classic Legion of Monsters within the Marvel Comics, so seeing him appear in this film is a brilliant way to introduce him into the cinematic universe.
There are also appearances of various other large supernatural creatures such as Big Foot, though they appear less than lively as we only see their heads mounted on the walls of the Bloodstone Manor, including a bat-like vampire head that Jack Russell claims to have fought with multiple times in the past, hinting at his rivalry with Dracula, although the mounted vampire is not believed to be Dracula.
Werewolf by Night is an ode to classic black and white monster movies whilst still feeling very much like a modern film. It’s effects involve some cgi but for the most part the monster designs and even the final werewolf form are all practical.
The film is filtered in black and white to make it feel like a classic monster flick, with just the Bloodstone providing a splash of colour for effect. It isn’t until the very end of the film that the monochrome filter fades away and the array of colours fades in as Elsa Bloodstone finally takes a moment to relax after her eventfully hectic night.
The final form of the werewolf is a homage to the classic wolf man designs from the Universal Monster Movies of the 1940’s. It is a humanoid form that resembles part human and part beast. Able to keep his trousers on, much like the comics, Jack Russells upper body is the focus of the transformation as we see his face morph into something that is more beast than man.
Whilst some have complained that this Marvel product feels low-budget, I feel like they have missed the point because this design is actually one of the most decent werewolf/wolf man designs you could hope to find in a TV movie, no matter what studio it comes from. Marvel could have chosen to go with a CGI job or a cheesy halloween costume look, but that would have taken away the charm of the film overall. The design isn’t the best, but it isn’t bad either. I guess you could say it’s just right for what it is.
The face of the werewolf reminds me of David Kessler’s appearance during his transformation in An American Werewolf in London which I’m not sure was done on purpose or if it’s simply coincidence but I think it’s a fun view of the design.
Cast and Characters:
Gael García Bernal does a fine job of bringing a loveable, funny and sympathetic Jack Russell to the MCU , with his friendly performance that really makes you root for Jack to come out on top. As the werewolf, his posture, movements and characteristics are all a top notch performance, bringing the werewolf to life in the best way possible.
Laura Donnelly brings a badass Elsa Bloodstone to the film. Her character in the comics is often compared to the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and having seen Donnelly’s performance in this TV Special, I can see why. Badass and powerful female figure who doesn’t take shit from anyone. She shares a sympathetic view with Jack and Man-Thing, and much like those characters, you are rooting for her to win in the end.
Kirk R. Thatcher, Eugenie Bondurant, Leonardo Nam and Daniel J. Watts all provide fun and unique characters that were made specifically for this project and do not have any specific comicbook counterpart. They portray the group of Hunters who have all come together as strangers to fight for their right to wield the Bloodstone, entering the ritualistic competition as enemies who will show no mercy to anyone who crosses their path, with all of them attempting to kill either Jack or Elsa.
When I first watched this film I don’t think my head was in the right place, because on second viewing, this is without a doubt one of my favourite Marvel products to date. It’s fun, it’s awesome and it’s a great werewolf flick overall. I still hold the critiques that I would have liked to have seen more of the werewolf and Man-Thing really steals the show, but I know that this being a TV Special it can’t have everything we want in just a short time. I do hope that this opens up the darker and more supernatural side of Marvel and I hope to one day see the crossovers between Werewolf By Night, Moon Knight and Blade. It’ll be interesting to see where these characters go next.