What happens when you take the power of Marvel and Disney and they let a filmmaker do a love letter to classic horror? You get Werewolf By Night. The new Disney+ special features plenty of characters that you’ve never seen on the screen before, and that doesn’t matter whatsoever. Like Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it does what Marvel does best. They take superheroes and put them in some other genre. The splicing of horror and superheroes here combined with classic film stylings makes for the most exciting property that Marvel has put out in a long time.

It’s not a movie, but it has a decent length (52 minutes), and this special is really aided by some great performances from Gael Garcia Bernal, Laura Donnelly, Harriet Sansom Harris, and Kirk R. Thatcher. Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron craft a tight script that shows off some new characters that mainstream audiences might not recognize. Werewolf By Night is a comic property that doesn’t have a gigantic following like Spider-Man or Iron Man, so they had to knock this one out of the park with Jack Russell’s first appearance. Luckily for us, Marvel picked the right person to direct this special in Michael Giacchino.

Marvel Has Never Looked This Good

The composer turned director puts plenty of style and substance into this project. First off, the black and white works completely, and it drives home the Universal Monsters comparisons. Those are surface level, however, there are plenty of other references to horror as well. There’s a Michael Myers “head tilt” from one of the characters, and there’s other imagery that evokes werewolf movies like An American Werewolf In London and The Howling, it’s clear this is a love letter from Giacchino and crew to all things horror. As a Halloween special, it feels very in the spirit of the season and the holiday.

I would say that it feels a lot like a suped-up version of a Disney Channel Halloween movie, in the best ways, but it also has more blood and gore than anything we’ve seen in Marvel. People explode in flame, limbs get severed, heads are lopped off, and swords get embedded in skulls; if this was in color, it might be problematic for Marvel to keep a TV-14 rating, but the black and white aids to cover up some of the bloodshed.

There’s tremendous action on display here. Elsa Bloodstone (played by Laura Donnelly) is a runaway star of the show. She gives a star-making performance that shines through some immense performances from Gael Garcia Bernal as Jack Russell and Harriet Sansom Harris as Verusa. Harris feels like she revels in the evil on display.

Bernal gives a wit, charm, and an extra touch of humanity to Jack Russell. He’s the perfect choice to play the character going forward. Outside of the main cast, Man-Thing is going to be everyone’s favorite monster going forward. It feels like when we were introduced to Rocket and Groot, where he’s charming and silly, but also terrifying and brutal.

Disconnected From Marvel, But Not Really

One thing about Werewolf By Night that is so refreshing is that it’s really its own story. This could have been an anthology episode of some random TV show, and it would have worked. I’m sure the Bloodstone will matter down the line in the MCU, but for now, it’s just a cool weapon used to hunt monsters by the Bloodstone family. Jack Russell is a charming character that is almost guaranteed to join forces with the Midnight Sons down the line. That connection isn’t even hinted at in this special. Anyone who’s feeling MCU fatigue or getting tired of having to know all these connections going into a show or movie will love Werewolf By Night.

There’ll be connections down the line, but for now, we can just enjoy it for its own merit, as a Halloween special.

This doesn’t feel like something made by Marvel at the end of the day, and that’s crazy to think about. This is stylistic and flashy to a gargantuan degree. It benefits from the Marvel brand, but could easily stand on its own.

Werewolf By Night releases on Disney+ this Friday, October 7th.

For more on Horror, make sure to check out Fright-A-Thon, the 61-day Halloween content marathon!

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