Werewolf by Night: Marvel’s Foray into Classic Genre Cinema Begins
Marvel’s streaming pastiche of classic Hollywood horror and primetime era television specials.
For those who haven’t been before, Alamo Drafthouse’s annual Fantastic Fest is a beautiful pilgrimage of hardcore film nerds and cinema fans who congregate in Austin, Texas, to enjoy the best exploits genre cinema has to offer.
Each year there are some big-name film premieres and many stars, but perhaps the most anticipated events are the secret screenings which are rarely ever leaked early and almost always quite exceptional, to say the least.
This year buzz in the room before Secret Screening #1, we had rumors swirling of a Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery making its surprise debut at the same event which it premiered four years early, or perhaps the Hellraiser reboot, a Halloween Ends finale or even a fan-pleasing screening of The Whale.
Yet, to the surprise of many, and perhaps indicative of what’s to come, our big reveal for this year’s secret screening surprise was Werewolves by Night, an upcoming “television special” produced by Marvel studios for Disney+ which combines the very best elements of superhero franchise-ness with classic horror genre roots.
Let’s explore what this new special brings to the table and how it might flip the script on what Marvel — and genre cinema — will look like here in the future.
Marvel Studio Presents Werewolves By Night
For those who couldn’t catch a secret screening (or just read about the project from its buzz online), Werewolf by Night is Marvel Studios’ first ever “Special Presentation” as part of their Marvel Cinematic Universe. Previously, everything under the current Marvel cinema banner has been films and television series.
With the launch of Disney+, though, Marvel has shifted more into greenlighting projects which can serve more as streaming-specific content for this app — rather than strictly what might bring audiences out to their local cineplex.
The project stars Gael García Bernal as Jack Russell (aka the Werewolf by Night) alongside Laura Donnelly and Harriet Sansom Harris. It was also notably directed by Michael Giacchino, who might be best known to most Marvel and film fans as the prolific composer of films and shows like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Batman, and The Incredibles.
Also, notably, Werewolf by Night is shot almost entirely in black and white. It draws heavily on classic era Hollywood creature features with stylized looks and tropes from this early cinema era.
Classic Superhero Genre Cinema
Yet, what’s quite interesting about the project besides from a pastiche filmmaking perspective is that the project is still very much a Marvel movie, so to speak. Despite its fun packaging, style, and gimmicks, there is still a powerful stone at the center (which shines in a bright red color against the rest of the film’s black and white presentation).
There are monsters, battles, and CGI effects seamlessly strewn in with what would otherwise be a very tame and straightforward homage project. And, for many audiences, that may be exactly what they’ve expected (and ultimately want) from new and self-aware Marvel projects.
It sure is fascinating how it all combines, though. And it represents an (albeit moderate) risk on Marvel’s behalf to trust an unproven director to make such a stark and stylistic choice with its black and white presentation. Not to mention, until the film gets going, it is presented sans the usual superhero flair as it leans into its slow cinema presentation for quite a bit.
What Can We Expect Next?
Ultimately Werewolf by Night might be a test project for Marvel Studios as they continue their shift away from being just a blockbuster film series and more of an all-encompassing entertainment studio focused on creating engaging streaming content.
With a runtime of less than one hour, Werewolf by Night is also a bit of an odd presentation for any theatrical experience. (And the film does move quite quickly once it gets going.) yet quite ideal for audiences at home looking for something to watch for a short hour mindlessly.
Judging by the early reviews of the project, as well as its excellent direction and star leads, it’d be safe to say that this project will probably be considered a resounding success. And Marvel, if they’re accurately tuned to the correct elements from this project which worked, could usher in more projects of the same ilk.
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