Marvel Scores A Hit With MCU Horror Special

The first reviews have begun to roll in for the upcoming Marvel Studios horror special, Werewolf by Night. As Phase 4 is approaching its end and moving further into The Multiverse Saga, Marvel Studios has one more original product coming to Disney+. After already getting deeper into horror with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel Studios is releasing its first-ever MCU special on Friday, Werewolf by Night.

Based on the characters that debuted in Marvel Comics back in 1972, Werewolf by Night comes from the iconic composer Michael Giacchino, who directed the black-and-white 1-hour special. The story follows Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), a monster hunter who gets cursed and turns into a werewolf. The supernatural being eventually encounters a group of other monster hunters, who come together to mourn the loss of Ulysses Bloodstone. Werewolf by Night will also introduce other famous Marvel monsters, including Man-Thing.

With Werewolf by Night is less than 24 hours away from hitting the Disney-branded streaming service, critics have begun to share their early reviews of the horror installment after social media reactions were revealed earlier this week. Check out several excerpts below:

Mae Abdulbaki, Screen Rant

“As it is, Werewolf by Night is an enjoyable outing, ripe with plenty of monsters and drama that comes in time for Halloween. It doesn’t take itself too seriously either, with bits of humor sprinkled throughout. Bernal and Donnelly make for an excellent duo and the special ends in a way that will certainly leave viewers wanting to know more about them and the monster world they live in. There may be so much left to explore, but Werewolf by Night does a tremendous job of traversing through a monster universe that has yet to be touched upon by the MCU. It represents the kind of risk-taking Marvel Studios should be doing more of in the future; it definitely pays off.”

Jordan Moreau, Variety

““Werewolf by Night” marks an exciting turn for the MCU — it’s the first in a (I hope) long line of special presentations, branded as one-offs for the ever-sprawling universe. Coming up in December is James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” presumably another short, gingerbread-themed project. But “Werewolf by Night” is a triumphant first effort at losing the capes and spandex and delving into more genre territory for Marvel.”

Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter

“Presumably the good people at Marvel and Disney+ know that if you have Gael Garcia Bernal inked to a deal to play a monster-chasing werewolf, you don’t waste him on a one-off holiday special. Whether Werewolf by Night spawns a TV series, a feature-length movie or some other narrative permutation hardly matters to me — and, pleasantly, Disney+ seems not to have any rules either.”

Caitlin Chappell, Comic Book Resources

“The biggest criticism of Werewolf by Night is that audiences will want more. Werewolf by Night exceeds expectations and delivers on being an instant Halloween classic. However, it is short, and there is so much more to explore with these characters and this side of Marvel. Hopefully, Halloween specials like this can become a tradition for the MCU. Meanwhile, the MCU should utilize this talent — on camera and behind the camera — more in future endeavors. Werewolf by Night is the biggest treat the MCU could give fans this October.”

Ryan Leston, IGN

“Werewolf by Night is a wondrous homage to the classic Universal monster movies. It’s about as scary as those original films are to a modern audience, but that doesn’t matter – it faithfully evokes the kind of classic horror that we haven’t seen in decades. The style may be old, and the tropes may be well-worn, but the film’s Marvel twist is enough to keep it feeling relatively fresh while tapping into the nostalgia of horror film fans. Gael Garcia Bernal is excellent as Jack, and the dynamic between him and Laura Donnelly warrants further screentime. Werewolf by Night may not make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat with a slow, creeping tone that captures the very best of classic horror.”

Kyle Wilson, Lamp Light Review

“While Marvel Studios’ idea of using a Halloween special to introduce Werewolf by Night is itself ingenious, the output is also occasionally underwhelming. The story employs many monster hunting tropes and sections in the middle get bogged down with hammy, boring conversations. The look and style are all superb though, but what Werewolf By Night really needed to rise from good to great was one big “Holy Sh*t” moment, instead it has just a handful of pretty cool ones.”

Maggie Boccella, Collider

“As it stands, I honestly hope we don’t see too much more of Jack Russell too soon. Werewolf by Night’s tone will be tough to match — even in something like Moon Knight, the closest it could get to a companion series — and he seems like a character that might struggle in the heavily-controlled levity of the MCU, dark as he is. With this special, Marvel turns off the lights and starts down the dark basement stairs that every horror fan knows are trouble… though really, we’re all too intrigued by what’s at the bottom to tell them to stop.”

Richard Trenholm, CNET

“Of course, not everyone will be on board with a pastiche of age-old cinema. But you can’t accuse Werewolf by Night of wearing out its welcome: A lot of TV shows these days just can’t sustain being stretched over eight to 10 hours, but I’m more than happy to dive into this bite-size hour-long special presentation format. Stuff like Hawkeye, Falcon and Winter Soldier and the current run of She-Hulk (not to mention sort-of-Marvel vampire debacle Morbius) were spread too thin, they could have made fantastic hour-long romps. Roll on this December’s Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.”

Andrew Webster, The Verge

“More than the visuals, though, is the fact that this is the most standalone production in the MCU yet story-wise. In fact, if I didn’t already know this was set in the same universe as Black Widow and Groot, I wouldn’t have realized it from watching. Werewolf by Midnight hints at a bigger story beyond its short run time, but it isn’t focused on tying that story to the greater Marvel world. It’s just 50 minutes of pulp horror you can enjoy on its own.”

Mike Ryan, Uproxx

“Directed by Michael Giacchino, best known for his work as a composer, he does that here, too … I’ll admit, Werewolf By Night was gnarlier than I expected for an MCU entry debuting on Disney+. Of course, this is still going to be MCU-level gore, but there is a mood and tone here that feels fresh. And being presented in black and white gives it a spooky charm. The whole thing, being released in October, makes a lot of sense. I hope Marvel actually does more of these kinds of entries with their lesser-known characters, ones that aren’t superheroes, that are self-contained, and have literally nothing to do with anything that has come before. For instance, Marvel has a plethora of Western titles that were published in the ’70s, just as Werewolf by Night. (My dad had a lot of these, too.) I’d love to see an MCU rendition of Two-Gun Kid or Rawhide Kid. (If you delve into the more recent history of Rawhide Kid, there’s quite a bit that could be done there.)”

Werewolf By Night Proves Marvel Needs To Take More Genre Risks

While the MCU has been praised for a lot of its accomplishments over the last couple of years, many have regarded the MCU as sometimes getting stuck in its own formula and feeling repetitive. What is coming through most from the Werewolf by Night reviews is that Marvel Studios should, without a doubt, explore other genres and shake up its structure every once in a while. For a franchise that is about to enter Phase 5 in 2023, it’s evident that critics are in favor of seeing refreshing MCU films and TV shows.

With the supernatural and horror genres being massively popular, Werewolf by Night will hopefully encourage Marvel Studios to pursue more projects within those realms. It could also benefit the studio to attempt more MCU specials that may be set in the same world but don’t necessarily have to build up to a larger endgame, whether that be the Infinity Stones or the Multiverse. It will be interesting to see how general viewers feel about Werewolf by Night, but there is a solid chance there will be similar responses as critics. Depending on how Werewolf by Night does, perhaps Disney+ will greenlight sequels and expand the monster side of the MCU in Phases 5, 6, and beyond.

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