Critics are smitten by Werewolf by Night, the latest Marvel Disney Plus event. And as it creeps out of the shadows, we noticed that the film currently holds the valued 100% Rotten Tomatoes score (opens in new tab) (this may be partially due to a small audience of critics, as this score is comprised of 11 reviews). And that's not the only thing that differentiates it from the rest of the MCU.
Werewolf by Night is a 53-minute short film directed by Michael Giacchino (best known for the score from Lost, among other things) and starring Gael García Bernal as a monster hunter named Jack Russell. In this under-an-hour special, Russell is one of many monster hunters brought to the estate of the late Ulysses Bloodstone, who was the king of their industry and has left a throne to be claimed.
So, not only is Werewolf by Night neither a show nor a movie, nor those tiny I Am Groot animated shorts, it's titled for a lesser-known Marvel Comics character. Oh, and it's in black and white. And critics still love it? Let's break down what they love — and what they don't fancy as much.
Werewolf by Night reviews: What critics love
One common point of pride that critics give Werewolf by Night is its use of practical effects. Chris Evangelista at SlashFilm (opens in new tab) writes, "When the werewolf (by night) does show up, I was ecstatic to see it was an actor wearing makeup! So many modern werewolves (by night) are CGI, and they always look awful. And awful CGI is kind of Marvel's MO at this point, so that's what I was expecting. Kudos, Marvel. You did it. You brought back practical werewolves. Take a bow."
This may be a backhanded compliment, but it's nice to read nonetheless.
Germain Lussier at io9 (opens in new tab) praises the mood set by Giacchino, writing, "Everything is played with such a pulpy camp that really makes the film stand out. Everyone involved knows they’re in something fun and frivolous, and play it with that extra shot of flair. That goes for Giacchino too. The choice of black and white doesn’t just harken back to the early 20th century when monsters ruled the big screen, it allows him to frame shots with gothic, evocative shadows in them."
Marisa Mirabal at IndieWire (opens in new tab) agrees, noting, "Another pleasant surprise is the use of practical effects. The creature design is fantastic and [the] werewolf transformation is reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London because of its lycanthropic features with human facial elements remaining."
Meagan Navarro at Bloody Disgusting (opens in new tab) commends the stars by saying, "Bernal and Donnelly are instantly winsome, too. There’s an easy chemistry between them and an oddball pairing dynamic that charms. Their performances are infectious, and the script presents just enough character details about them that reel you in but leaves you wanting to know more." That last part is also reflected in one critic's complaint.
Werewolf by Night reviews: What critics don't like
Yes, Werewolf by Night has some flaws. Mirabal notes that "Due to its short run time, the characters are not able to be fully developed and explored." Lussier agrees: "That speed does hurt the film a little, because so many characters and encounters happen so fast, you can’t really relish them."
Evangelista highlighted other negatives, such as "a burst of Marvel CGI light beam buffoonery that I can not sanction, and some of the quipping is a bit much."
Navarro found the film to be a bit lopsided, writing, "Giacchino uses broad brushstrokes to paint his classic horror tribute, creating an uneven homage that can’t fully marry the ’30s style horror to the Marvel mold. ... Ultimately, this experimental Halloween special doesn’t push the horror as far as it could or should go, struggling to marry its inspiration to the MCU superhero format."
Outlook: Should you watch Werewolf By Night?
At under an hour, Werewolf by Night doesn't ask for a whole lot of your ... night. If you want something fun and riveting for less than an hour? It should be just the ticket.
But as the critics here have warned us, don't go in expecting a fully fleshed out Werewolf by Night character. For that, we will probably have to wait for scenes in an upcoming Marvel movie. Blade, perhaps?