Based on the Marvel comic Jack Russell series by Gerry Conway, Mike Ploog, Jean Thomas, and Roy Thomas, Werewolf by Night is the story of a group of hunters who participate in a game to kill a monster with the prize being the new leader of monster hunters as things become problematic. Directed and scored by Michael Giacchino and teleplay by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron from a story by Quinn, the Disney+ TV special from Marvel is a homage to monster and horror movies of the past as well as an exploration into monsters. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Kirk R. Thatcher, Eugenie Bondurant, Leonardo Nam, Daniel J. Watts, Al Hamacher, Carey Jones, and Harriet Sansom Harris. Werewolf by Night is an exhilarating and stylish TV special from Michael Giacchino.
The TV film revolves around a group of hunters who are invited to attend a memorial service for a revered hunter as well as participate in a hunt to see who will lead this group of hunters as they all deal with things relating to the hunt. It’s a TV special that explore the world of monsters as they as these monster hunters gather for a key event as they’re all aware of their own exploits but have no clue on the monster they have to kill while the appearance of the legendary hunter’s estranged daughter creates tension during the hunt. The teleplay by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron is largely straightforward as it opens with this memorial ceremony for Ulysses Bloodstone (voice of Richard Dixon) as his widow Verussa (Harriet Sansom Harris) leads the preceding as well as organize this hunt where the hunters have to find and kill the monster as well as retrieve an object from the monster where the winner becomes the new leader. Bloodstone’s daughter Elsa (Laura Donnelly) reluctantly participates despite her own issues with both her father and stepmother while one of its participants in Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal) is hiding a secret of his own.
Michael Giacchino’s direction definitely has a visual style that serves as a homage to old monster movies and horror films from the 20th Century including Universal monster movies and the horror films from the British studio Hammer from the late 1950s and 1960s. Shot in black-and-white at the Trilith Studios in Atlanta, Giacchino maintains a look and tone that play into old horror though it is set in a modern world where the first images involve the Avengers and how they are revered despite not fighting any monsters. Giacchino uses a lot of wide and medium shots to get a scope of the locations including a labyrinth where the monster is hiding as there are elements of practical and digital visual effects to play with the look as well as the reveal of the monster (Carey Jones). Even as the visuals would have scratches and cigarette burns on the film stock though it is shot digitally where Giacchino creates some meticulous shots including close-ups that play into the suspense.
Through the usage of the black-and-white film stock, it allows Giacchino to use moments of gory violence to great extremes but with an air of restraint in its look though its impact is intense as it leaned towards beyond the realm of TV-14. Most notably a scene in which a werewolf is fighting Verussa’s guards as it is shot entirely in one take in a room on a static wide-medium shot as it zooms slowly towards the room where blood is then shown on the camera. The only color that is present in the TV film is red and from the Bloodstone as it is a MacGuffin of sorts due to the power it contains but there’s a reason that Elsa wants it more than anyone as it relates to her meeting with Russell and their growing friendship in the course of this one night. Giacchino doesn’t just maintain this sense of horror and suspense but also infuse it with bits of humor as its ending does lead up to not just new opportunities for its key characters but also a world they might step into. Overall, Giacchino crafts a thrilling and intense TV film about a hunter and a famed hunter’s daughter trying to deal with an ugly ceremony that involves killing monsters and other dark things.
Cinematographer Zoe White does incredible work with the special’s black-and-white cinematography with its stylish usage with the lighting for some of the exterior scenes as well as the interior scenes at night as well as the small usage of color of red for the Bloodstone. Editor Jeffrey Ford does excellent work with the editing with its emphasis on fast-cuts to play into the action and graphic violence as well as knowing when not to cut for some key shots including the scene of the Werewolf by Night fighting Verussa’s guards. Production designer Maya Shimoguchi and art director Lauren Rosenblum do amazing work with the look of the Bloodstone estate as well as some of the art work in the film’s opening narration sequence as it relates to the Avengers and the legend of monster hunters. Costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo does fantastic work with the costumes with the clothes the hunters wears as well as the lavish clothes that Verussa wears.
The special makeup effects work of Howard Berger, Addison Foreman, Louis Kiss, and Greg Nicotero is brilliant for the look of the characters including some of the makeup Russell wears as well as the one Verussa has for the final ceremony and the final look of the Werewolf by Night character. Special effect supervisor Daniel Sudick, along with visual effects supervisors Andy Boyd, Joe Farrell, and Om Kangone, does tremendous work in not just the usage of practical effects mixed in with digital effects for the look of the monster named Ted but also in the look of the Werewolf by Night in some spots as well as some of the visuals such as film scratches and cigarette burns. Sound designer Josh Gold does superb work with the sound in the way some of the creatures sound but also in the way weapons sound when they’re used and other bits throughout the film. The music by Michael Giacchino is phenomenal as Giacchino creates not just a thrilling orchestral mix for the opening Marvel theme but also his usage of orchestral flourishes, brass instrument arrangements including the sound of a tuba on fire, and other elements that help play into the horror and suspense as it is a major highlight of the film while music supervisor Dave Jordan brings in a soundtrack that features music from Vera Lynn, Irving Berlin, and Judy Garland.
The casting by Sarah Halley Finn and Krista Husar is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from David Silverman as the flaming tuba player, Rick Wasserman as the voice of the narrator in the opening sketches sequence, Richard Dixon as the voice of the late Ulysses Bloodstone with its body created and performed by puppeteer Eric Beck, Al Hamacher as the Bloodstone servant Billy Swan, and Carey Jones in a superb performance as the monster known as Ted who is just a harmless creature with voice work by editor Jeffrey Ford. The quartet of Daniel J. Watts as Barasso, Leonardo Nam as Liorn, Eugenie Bondurant as Azarael, and Kirk R. Thatcher as Jovan as the four other monster hunters who participate in this hunt as they’re all powerful with Thatcher being a bit of a comic relief at first until he’s in game mode.
Harriet Sansom Harris is incredible as Verussa Bloodstone as the widow of Ulysses Bloodstone and Elsa’s stepmother who organized a hunt to find the new leader of her home while is also someone that is thirsting for power as she also despises Elsa for leaving the family leading to some tension. Laura Donnelly is phenomenal as Elsa Bloodstone as Ulysses’ estranged daughter who isn’t fond of the family tradition as she has reasons for wanting the Bloodstone as she becomes an ally to Russell while also proving to be a formidable fighter who can kick ass with weapons. Finally, there’s Gael Garcia Bernal in a spectacular performance as Jack Russell/Werewolf by Night as a man who is asked to participate with many knowing about his reputation but are unaware of his real reasons for showing up as there’s some charm and anguish into his character as well as someone who is trying to maintain control of his other persona who is a murderous monster but only when he is threatened as it is a quintessential performance for Bernal.
Werewolf by Night is a sensational TV special from Michael Giacchino that features a great leading performance from Gael Garcia Bernal in the titular role as well as tremendous supporting performance from Laura Donnelly and Harriet Sansom Harris. Along with its ravishing visuals, Giacchino’s sumptuous music score, its effective usage of practical/digital visual effects, its story on monsters and its hunters, and its willingness to present elements of graphic violence. It is a TV special that isn’t just a fun and exciting presentation made for Halloween season but it is also a special that finds the heart of a monster and the real monsters they have to deal with. In the end, Werewolf by Night is a phenomenal TV special from Michael Giacchino.
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Infinity Saga: Phase One: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers
Phase Two: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man
Phase Three: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Thor: Ragnarok - Black Panther - Avengers: Infinity War - Ant-Man and the Wasp - Captain Marvel - Avengers: Endgame - Spider-Man: Far from Home
Multiverse Saga: Phase Four: Black Widow - Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings - Eternals - Spider-Man: No Way Home - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - Thor: Love and Thunder - Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special
Phase Five: Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – The Marvels – (Deadpool 3) - (Captain America: Brave New World)
Phase 6: – (Thunderbolts) – (Blade (2024 film)) - (Fantastic Four (2024 film)) – (Avengers: The Kang Dynasty) – (Avengers: Secret Wars)
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