Marvel Cinematic Universe, aka MCU, continues its exploration of horror after Sam Raimi’s “Multiverse of Madness” gave the audience a brief glimpse of the possibilities. Their latest venture into the dark is “Werewolf by Night,” a one-hour-long Halloween special scheduled to be released on Disney+ on October 7th, 2022. The music has been composed by renowned composer Michael Giacchino. The classic horror comics-inspired special had its trailer released at Disney’s D23 Expo, which got fans talking. We will briefly discuss the trailer itself, the character background, and how it will find a due place in the larger landscape of the MCU.
The Halloween special truly serves its purpose as the trailer showcases the perfect amalgamation of typical 30/40s Universal Studio’s monster movie dread and 70/80s British grindhouse hammer horror. A tone-appropriate black and white color scheme has been used in the trailer. It opens with a jingle-like theme and a narrator’s description, which is an accurate representation of 80s tv specials. The Gothic trappings of layered labyrinths, graveyards, strobing lights, monstrous shadows, screams, suspenseful elevated background theme, extreme close-up shots, and off-screen violence create a familiar experience for long-time horror fans. All of which suggest that to capture the bygone era’s macabre and campy creep factor faithfully, MCU has tried to move out of its comfort zone.
The trailer follows a group of hunters who are attending a gathering, in order to conduct a hunt for a creature that is said to be one among them. Needless to say, the creature referred to here is the eponymous Werewolf, whom we see only in fading glimpses. A zombified human makes a joke about “rotting” for the success of the hunters. A hunt for the creature ensues, and we see most of the hunters getting worked up. Gael Garcia Bernal’s character, who is the titular Werewolf, is shown multiple times. The appearance of the ‘Minutemen’ of ‘Time Variance Authority’ ruins the time-trapped vibe a little bit, as they are seen to be prodding the caged creature with their time sticks. The creature breaks free from his captivity and attacks hunters and ‘Minutemen.’ A flurry of gory scenes continues as we get a glimpse of two other denizens of the darkness of the Marvel universe, ‘Man-Thing’ and ‘Nosferatu.’ The trailer comes to a close with Laura Donnelly’s character trapped inside the cage as the beast’s silhouette looms larger. It seems like she is being used as bait as the ‘Minutemen’ standing behind make no attempt to rescue her. The scene fades out in a burning effect like older film reels. The trailer will remind seasoned horror fans of another werewolf classic, “The Beast Must Die” (1974), which follows a similar premise of the hunted being one among the hunters.
The place the hunters gather is known as ‘Bloodstone Castle,’ named after the owner, Ulysses Bloodstone. Ulysses Bloodstone, the zombified human shown in the trailer, is a monster hunter in comics and has lived through ten millennia thanks to an artifact named “Bloodgem,” which has bestowed him with immortality. It can be assumed that the hunters hunt monsters as well since they sport a common brooch. Laura Donnelly portrays the role of ‘Elsa Bloodstone,’ daughter of Ulysses. Garcia Bernal’s character, ‘Jack Russell,’ is the Werewolf hidden among hunters and for a brief moment, the audience gets a good look at his werewolf appearance in the trailer. It is very reminiscent of old-school werewolf movies, especially Lon Chaney Jr.’s “The Wolfman” (1941). The appearance is also done mostly with practical effects, which is a refreshing departure from contemporary, over-the-top CGI-used designs. The timeline of the trailer isn’t specified, as the appearance of TVA suggests the settings might be one of the nightmare dimensions mentioned in the first season of “Loki,” which houses myriads of monsters. Speaking of monsters, we get a blink-and-you-miss shot of ‘Man-Thing,’ a humanoid swamp monster associated with the horror-related storylines of Marvel. In the comics, after a young chemist named Theodore Sallis injected himself with super-soldier serum and fell into a swamp with mystical properties, and he turned into the monster named ‘Man-Thing.’ The human-turned-monster creature shares its resemblance with DC’s ‘Swamp Thing,’ although it predates the latter in terms of its first appearance by a month. Another second-long close shot of a bat-like creature possibly suggests the existence of MCU’s version of Dracula, or Nosferatu, both of whom are connected with Jake Russell’s Werewolf.
“Werewolf by Night” follows Jack Russell, formerly known as Jacob Russoff, who inherited the curse of Werewolf from his family lineage. During the 18th century, Jack’s ancestor, Grigory Russoff, a baron of Transylvania, tried to kill Dracula, but in the process, got bitten by a werewolf and contracted the curse of lycanthropy. The curse lay dormant for several centuries when Jack’s father, Gregory Russoff, awakened the curse by reading the book of the damned, ‘Darkhold.’ After Gregory is killed by villagers, his family moves to the United States and adopts the surname Russell to hide their identity. The curse, which was transferred to Jack, manifested for the first time when he turned 18 years old. Later, through restraint and practice, Jack learned to control his shapeshifting powers and use them at will and use those powers to fight evil. However, during the three days of the full moon, his bestial sense and powers remain uncontrollable. As a werewolf, Jack turns into a giant man-wolf monster with claws and fangs and gains superhuman strength, senses, reflexes, and accelerated healing. Like other werewolves, he, too, is susceptible to silver-based weapons.
Connection to MCU
The MCU has previously teased the character’s appearance in episode two of the “Moon Knight” series. In comics, Moon Knight has shared history with Werewolf, with the former character making his first appearance in issue 32 of “Werewolf by Night” comics. They might cross paths in the future as the second season of “Moon Knight” is already in the making. The infamous vampire-human hybrid, bounty hunter Blade, was supposed to make his appearance in this Halloween special, but actor Mahershala Ali’s (who plays Blade in the MCU) schedule conflict didn’t let that happen. Three of them, along with Elsa Bloodstone, Man-Thing, Doctor Strange, and Ghost Rider, have formed the monster hunter team “Midnight Sons” in comics, which might be a possibility in the MCU too, although not in the foreseeable future, which is preoccupied with the multiverse. The Darkhold, in comics using which Gregory Russell reawakened their family curse of Werewolf, also corrupted Wanda Maximoff into Scarlet Witch and put a curse on Doctor Strange as seen in “WandaVision” and “Multiverse of Madness.” In comics Jack’s ancestor Grigory Russell also tried to invoke the Elder God Chthon to absolve his curse of Werewolf. In MCU, we find mention of the Elder God, as Chthon’s engravings in Wundagore Mountain in “Multiverse of Madness” were the scriptures of Darkhold. Therefore, it seems the possibility of “Werewolf by Night” getting integrated into larger plans is strong, and if the Halloween special turns out to be a favorite among fans, we also might get a full season of wolf-monster mayhem!