Werewolf by Night, directed by Michael Giacchino, is an undiscovered gem. The film is also the most unique Marvel submission I’ve had the pleasure of seeing recently. Wondering what to watch this Halloween, I noticed Werewolf by Night on Disney+, the Disney streaming service. Clocking in at 53 minutes, the film is also the shortest movie, advertised as a “TV Special”.
Right away, I was properly cued into what kind of movie to expect. The moment the opening credits rolled and the huge, bombastic score opened the film, I was hit with a dose of nostalgia from my youth watching Tod Browning’s Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi). Sixteen-year-old me would have loved sitting down on a Friday night in October to watch this.
The latest from Marvel stars Gael Garcia Bernal (CoCo, Bad Education), Laura Donnelly (Outlander, The Nevers), and Harriet Sansom Harris (Licorice Pizza, American Horror Story: Apocalypse) in a charming little film that Tod Browning (or James Whale of Frankenstein fame) would have been proud of. On a spooky, dark night, a secret cabal of monster hunters gathers to mourn their deceased leader, Ulysses Bloodstone (Richard Dixon, The Danish Girl).
Leading them is the Bloodstone’s lover, monster hunter Verusa (Harris). The daughter of Ulysses, Elsa Bloodstone (Donnelly), to reluctantly allowed to compete. Little do they know, a werewolf named Jack Russell is hiding among them, masquerading as a monster hunter. The reason for their meeting is the Bloodstone, an artifact of mysterious power that Verusa attaches to another living monster’s hide. The beast will be set loose and the chase will be on.
Apparently, it was not the first choice to shoot the film in black and white. But I am grateful for them having arrived at the decision, as it really makes the movie. Since it’s a Marvel fantasy film, there is one more colour in addition to the black and white, and I think that helps remind the viewer that they are watching a Marvel film. Black and white filming, and the lovely little digitally rendered cue marks for the projectionist and the intense full-orchestra score make this a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
One could quite rightly wonder if Werewolf By Night would hold up with these details, with the cast being the next question. The cast just one more thing Giacchino got right, with Bernal nailing his part as a timid man trying to act the part of a hunter while secretly disguising his furry self. One of my favourite things about this film was Bernal’s diffident body language and great comedic timing.
Donnelly is perfect in her role as Elsa Bloodstone, her luscious dark locks and eyes like deep black pools dominating the camera. But since this is a Marvel film, she’s no bimbo — she kicks ass. And Donnelly plays the straight woman with ease, setting up a lot of laughs for Bernal to execute. Harris as the evil stepmother Verussa was hilarious too, and the moments and lines her character had with Jack and with Elsa were comedy gold.
Werewolf by Night is available on Disney+ and was released on October 7th. And if you want more films like this, FilmTagger has some suggestions.