Marvel Mondays: Werewolf by Night

Plot summary: A cabal of monster hunters gather to compete for the enigmatic Bloodstone.


Special Title: ‘Werewolf by Night’

Release Date: October 7th, 2022

Directed: Michael Giacchino (1)

Written: Heather Quinn (2) & Peter Cameron (6)

There were plans to make a Werewolf by Night movie as early as 2001, long before the concept of the MCU, but development went cold in 2006.

The special was shot in colour and early edits maintained it, but Giacchino showed Kevin Feige a black and white cut and subsequently got the go-ahead to release it as such.

There is some ambiguity as to which of Marvel’s Man-Thing and DC’s Swamp Thing is a rip-off of the other. Marvel beat DC to press by two months, but comics take time to produce, and Swamp Thing’s creator, Len Wein, was roommates with Gerry Conway at the time he wrote the first issue of Man-Thing. Even weirder, Wein wrote the second issue of Man-Thing. And both may even be a rip-off of 1942’s The Heap!


In the wake of the death of Ulysses Bloodstone, a group of monster hunters gather at his estate, where his widow, Verussa, explains the first of them to kill a monster will inherit the powerful Bloodstone.

Elsa Bloodstone, the estranged daughter of Ulysses, throws her name in the pot to bring their number to six, with Jack Russell randomly drawing the right to enter the maze first.

Jack is reluctant to fight Elsa, but the other hunters do not share his view and Elsa is forced to kill one.

The pair are trapped in a mausoleum together and he explains that he is not here to kill the monster, but rather free it, as it is an old friend of his called ‘Ted’.

Agreeing to work together, they smash a hole in the outer grounds to let Ted escape, with Elsa grabbing the Bloodstone from it first.

Verussa captures them both after the Bloodstone reacts violently to Jack’s touch, confirming him to be a monster too. Caging them together, Verussa uses the stone to force his transformation into a werewolf.

Jack escapes their cage and slaughters Verussa’s guards, but spares Elsa, having imprinted on her enough in human form, fleeing instead.

Ted returns and kills Verussa as Elsa inherits the Bloodstone and the mansion. Ted and Jack reunite.


What a desperately needed breath of fresh of air.

Marvel presumably have more of these ‘Television Specials’ planned given they had a little title card made in the style of the old CBS Specials, and if they’re going to be anything like this I’m massively in favour. Too many of their projects in the last few years didn’t justify a theatrical release, or even a full season of television. But 45 minutes of spooky werewolf shenanigans and minimal exposition? Sign me up anytime. They got in, had some fun, and got out. I’m sure all three of the key players will return down the road, but for now, it really worked as just a random night where they all happened to cross paths. By no means their first or last adventures, with no origin stories or end of the world stakes in sight.

I can’t even imagine how embarrassing it must be a seasoned director who got a shot at a Marvel project only for a musical composer to thoroughly kick your ass in his first real try. Michael Giacchino has directed a couple (literally) of short projects, but this is by far his largest project in the role, and he effortlessly flexed a stronger sense of style and visual flair than 99% of all MCU movies and shows. The Marvel filmmaking bar is so impossibly low, that you actually find yourself thinking ‘hey, he actually thought about where to place the camera to create an interesting shot!’ The two major standouts were Elsa’s stylish kill of Liorn – which saw her drop into sunken vegetation, retrieve his severed arm still mounted with a mini-crossbow and then roll back out of it to shoot him with it – and the big transformation sequence. Communicating the latter entirely by pointing the camera at Elsa and having her react while we see his monstrous silhouette behind her was sublime.

The entire thing was dripping with swagger though, most obviously the decision to release it (almost) entirely in black and white. Not only does this make it fit the throwback horror aesthetic they’re aiming for, but also gave it a mostly ambiguous setting. Indeed, if not for Elsa’s fancy bomb and Verussa’s guards, they could get away with claiming the events took place decades ago, and that Jack’s biology and Elsa’s possession of the Bloodstone kept them looking young for their inevitable return to the MCU. More importantly, the visuals make the CGI on Man-Thing (aka Ted) look MUCH better than he does when you see him in colour at the end. (There was a practical suit, but it’s obviously digitally enhanced when in motion and using powers.) The obligatory ‘only one object appears in colour’ touch was a little cliché, but sometimes clichés just work! There are even artificial ‘Q-Marks’ to indicate the transition between acts one, two and three.

Finally, I enjoyed the set design of this absurd maze, and the fight choreography in general, from Elsa’s Black Widow-esque takedowns, to Jack’s murder-spree once he transforms, and the gnarly kill of Barasso as his head is pulled down onto a sword embedded in the floor.

Please do more things like this, Kev. It seems to have born from genuine passion and artistry rather than commerce, and for me it’s no coincidence that the strongest things Marvel have put out in the last 3 years have leant heavily into genre, with this being perhaps the strongest example.

Most Marvellous Player

With such a short run time and small cast, we’re really only looking at the big three actors, though Kirk Thatcher was fun as Jovan, too. I’ll also rule out Harriet Sansom Harris, though she was a fun little foil for the heroes as the wicked stepmother that’s just a little too into this kooky quest bequeathed by her late husband.

I’ve been desperate for Elsa Bloodstone to arrive in the MCU, and while Laura Donnelly may not look the part (ginger erasure), she was incredibly solid. It’s unfortunate that this special was released in the wake of The Sandman, because I couldn’t help but think people would compare her to Jenna Coleman’s electric turn as Johanna Constantine. Really, the similarities begin and end at being British, sarcastic and wearing nice coats, but still. This was a difficult role and Donnelly played it well, especially her horrified reaction to Jack’s transformation, which simply wouldn’t have worked if I didn’t believe that she was genuinely afraid despite being a monster hunter who has seen some shit. Her apathetic world-weariness towards Verussa and her father’s nonsense was fun from start to finish, and she was also up for the physical aspect of the role.

But Gael García Bernal was phenomenal as Jack Russell. I’m not too proud to admit I know very little about this character beyond his ties to Moon Knight, and have never read a comic featuring him. It would be a relatively safe bet to assume the same will be true for 99% of viewers, but it’s difficult to argue that García Bernal knocked it out of the park. He brings a sense of warmth from his very first scene, allowing a juxtaposition when he is revealed as the most prolific killer in a room he seems reluctant to even be in. His bond with Elsa and quirky friendship with ‘Ted’ are nice, but for me the stroke of genius was his ‘Dog Acting’. The cheerful demeanour was innocent enough, but pairing it with idiosyncrasies like the way he scratches behind his ear, smelling the blood on Jovan’s hands and walking around in a little circle before he sat down made the whole thing feel like a calculated, cute performance. The imprinting scene is obviously a lot more on the nose, but was also funny, and props to him for the physicality he brought to the Werewolf half of the character too. I’m torn on the costume itself, but he certainly moved in an unorthodox way that would serve him well in a hypothetical team-up movie.

Villain Watch

As mentioned above, I like Verussa Bloodstone’s characterisation as a horrible stepmother who despises Elsa, and is possibly a little bit cracked in the head. From the animatronic corpse of her husband being operated like a funfair fortune-teller, to her antics trying to seize the Bloodstone for herself and have Jack murder Elsa, she’s just a creepshow. There’s no better measure of an effective villain than if you are pleased to see them murdered by a giant Cthulhu beast.

It’s up to you if you consider the other hunters to be villains. They kill monsters, but none seem like good people, and the entire premise is meant to show that not all monsters are evil anyway. They’re all decent and you kind of get their deals immediately. I’m all for Easter eggs, but I’m glad they resisted the urge to tie each of them to a specific group we’ve seen in the MCU before.


My MCU podcast with Ben Phillips, Ben & Matt’s Marvellous Journey, will return in early 2023 to cover this and all the other 2022 Marvel projects.

In the mean time, check out my other podcast with Ben, There Will Be Movies, which looks at 25 of our favourite movies from each decade. Our fourth volume is the 1980s, continuing this week with Back to the Future.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s