“Werewolf by Night” isn’t really a horror one-off. It is rather a tribute to classic black-and-white horror films. So, the question is, do we judge “Werewolf by Night” as a horror flick or not? Marvel Studios has begun its exploration of the supernatural horror genre with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” directed by Sam Raimi. And the film did have its horror moments, although the fact that Raimi was pulling his punches was evident. We cannot point the finger at him as Marvel had to make sure that its younger audience sat till the end of the movie. The same seems to be the case with “Werewolf by Night.” But can we accept the complete absence of true horror elements in “Werewolf by Night”? This can only happen when we accept that there wasn’t any horror element in it in the first place. Or was there? Let’s talk.
It is not unusual for directors to compose music for their films. Charlie Chaplin, John Carpenter, and Clint Eastwood are the names that come to mind immediately. But Werewolf by Night does the reverse. Disney+ Werewolf by Night is directed by Michael Giacchino; an American composer turned director who has composed for some great animated films like ” “Zootopia,” ” “Ratatouille,” “Up,” The Incredibles,” and “Lightyear.” He has also composed for “Doctor Strange,” Tom Holland’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, and many other films. But why did Marvel choose him to direct a film that introduces a character that would go on to be a full-fledged dark superhero (at least, we hope so)? After all, Jack Russell is a potential member of the Midnight Sons. And we can be sure that Marvel will “bring together [that] group of remarkable people” who will fight the monsters “we never could.” This team includes Dane Whitman, AKA Black Knight, and Blade too, both of whom Marvel has introduced (we hear Blade’s voice at the end of “Eternals”) into the MCU.
Okay, we get it that “Werewolf by Night” offers a fresh visual take on a Marvel production after more than a 2-decade long worth of typical superhero films with similar visuals that have now become clichés both in terms of visual effects and other aspects. It’s just the stories that are different. The film scratches, cue marks, and practical corniness in “Werewolf by Night” do play their part really well in establishing the classic vibe of the show. Talking about “Werewolf by Night” as an old-school holiday special, the show’s co-executive producer, Brian Gay, stated how it evokes feelings and brings back childhood memories for some generations who grew up after the big bang of television broadcasting. But do these generations constitute the MCU audience? Only a minor portion, probably, but not more. And if we do consider the show as a standalone tribute to holiday specials, it becomes tough to put it under the MCU canon despite the presence of MCU Easter eggs.
But what about the genre that “Werewolf by Night” aims to explore or was supposed to? More than being explored, the Horror genre is given a tribute. If Marvel is going to take the genre seriously, then there’s a lot of work to be done. Dane Whitman and Blade are two very dark characters. And the way in which they were introduced in the MCU proved that something dark is indeed brewing in the MCU. Jack Russell’s Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, and Elsa Bloodstone have all been members of the Midnight Sons at some point, as well as Moon Knight. Blade was one of the original members of the group, while Dane Whitman is MCU’s addition. Bringing all these dark characters together will mean establishing them first. “Werewolf by Night” scratched merely the surface of the horror genre.
As for the rating of the show, it was given a TV-14 rating, i.e., kids under 14 will need parental supervision. “Werewolf by Night” does set a benchmark for parents to determine if the MCU’s exploration of horror can be experienced by kids. Doctor Strange 2 had more horror moments than “Werewolf by Night,” which was a celebration of the spooky rather than downright scary. Even the gory scenes are shown in an implicit manner other than an ear chewed off and a few limbs cut off (they sound gorier than they look in the show). Basically, making our assumptions about Marvel’s future of horror by basing them solely on “Werewolf by Night”, isn’t justified. The show is a holiday special, and it will do us good if we take it in no other way but that. As it is, at the end of the show, color takes over black and white, and this could be a sign that Jack Russell’s return, whenever that is, will be gorier and more visceral than we might expect. But will Marvel give the character its proper dark arc? It should. What we have to wait for is how the production giant manages to balance the horror and its treatment with regard to the character on the big screen. This will throw light on Marvel’s exploration of the horror genre big time.