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‘Werewolf by Night’ Might Be a Bigger Player in the MCU Than We Think

Gael Garcia Bernal as Jack Russell in 'Werewolf by Night'.

The spooky season has officially arrived, and Marvel is getting into the holiday spirit with their Halloween special Werewolf by Night. Director/composer Michael Giacchino brings us a throwback to classic Universal monster movies with the black and white special, which stars Gael García Bernal (Old) as Jack Russell, the titular werewolf and Laura Donnelly as Elsa Bloodstone. The premise sees Bernal and a group of fellow monster hunters on an all-night hunt, where one of the hunters is a monster themselves. In a new featurette, Giacchino discusses his inspiration for the project, saying “[It’s] a giant mashup love letter to all of these old movies I absolutely loved and lived on growing up,” adding “I love monster movies, because they’re such allegories for feeling different from everyone else.”

At this stage, Marvel is successful enough to gamble on more creative and risk-taking projects (although anything Marvel is sure to be a moneymaker, so the idea of risk is relative). Still, dabbling in different genres allows the behemoth studio to freshen up its roster and provide something new to the audience. Series like WandaVision and Moon Knight have expanded on the Marvel formula to create weirder, more artistic worlds that are creator-driven. But while these are exciting variations on the canon, will all these interesting characters and stylistic choices melt away in the larger MCU films?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness failed to address Wanda’s arc in WandaVision, pivoting her narrative to serve the film’s needs. And it’s going to be impossible to maintain the varying tones of each Disney+ series when the characters are inevitably jammed together for the next Avengers saga. Which brings us back to Werewolf by Night. Will the black and white vintage horror aesthetic open a new universe for Marvel to play in, or will it be an artistic one-off that later folds characters into a larger narrative?

According to Marvel CEO Kevin Feige, it seems that WbN may be its own entire thing. Feige says in the featurette, “We wanted to explore entirely new characters and entirely new sides of the MCU with this unusual, fun, and frightening spin on the supernatural.” He adds, “We’re introducing a world that will ultimately become quite important to the future of the MCU.”

WbN won’t be Marvel’s first foray into horror. In 2019, Marvel Television and Hulu planned to launch their “Adventure into Fear” label, a series of interconnected MCU series which included Helstrom and Ghost Rider. But Helstrom flopped badly, and Ghost Rider was scrapped once Marvel Television was folded into the larger Marvel Studios, and the company shifted their TV offerings to Disney+.

It will be interesting to see how Werewolf by Night is received. The tone and aesthetic is creative and fun, and I’m always here for Marvel taking more risks. After the bevvy of trailers and first looks that premiered at D23, WbN stands out as maybe the most original MCU offering this year.

Werewolf by Night premieres on October 7 on Disney+.

(featured image: Marvel Studios)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.