As the Marvel Cinematic Universe grows, its important for the franchise to change up the formula. We need variation with almost thirty films and more than a half-dozen shows in the bank. However, few would have guessed that Michael Giacchino would be the curveball the franchise needed. The composer of Up, Inside Out, and The Batman, takes the reigns on the special and infuses it with a unique vision within the MCU. Giacchino makes Werewolf By Night an important first step in a new side of the comic book universe.

On a cold night, a group of hunters convenes for a funeral. Ulysses Bloodstone has died, and now the hunters will compete for control of the stone that bears his name. Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal) arrives with more than one hundred hunts under his belt, while Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly) attempts to claim her father’s stone. As the two hunters become intertwined, they must work to save Russell’s friend and fight off Versussa Bloodstone (Harriett Sansom Harris), Elsa’s stepmother.

Giacchino’s special does not need to serve larger masters, and as a result, it pushes the boundaries of the comic book universe. Surprisingly, Werewolf By Night features real scares, legitimate violence, and campy performances. The unique blend of comedy and horror fits into the mold of a Universal horror film that clearly serves as its inspiration.

The combination of CGI and makeup effects adds texture to the proceedings. Giacchino and his team pay homage to the great werewolf films of yesteryear. A blend of American Werewolf and The Wolf Man helps place the design in special company. Additionally, Giacchino pushes the limits of sound design, crafting a unique soundscape for the hunt. The special embraces a haunted house aesthetic while also paying homage to gothic and classic horror. The costumes and production design bring the dark sensibilities of Werewolf By Night to life, further engraining us in this new corner of the MCU.

Bernal quickly establishes his star bona fides, drawing attention from the moment he takes the screen. He adds a weary-worn subtext to the role, which helps establish a shorthand for the character. Additionally, his commitment to bringing the physicality of Russell to life helps differentiate him from the many characters that already exist in the MCU. Donnelly also pops through the screen. Giacchino relies on her to sell the terror of Werewolf By Night, and she steps up to the challenge. Her eyes become the mirror to bring the world to life.

For Giacchino, Werewolf By Night opens the door to an exciting new chapter of his career. With outstanding visual sensibilities, it’s clear that he displayed the goods to wield future big-budget productions. Marrying the MCU to horror helps establish a new path for future stories. How Bernal and Donnelly play into the MCU going forward remains a mystery, but with plenty of characters to embrace, Marvel could benefit from the genre change.

Alan’s Rating: 9/10

Werewolf By Night is currently available on Disney+.

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