The Marvel Cinematic Universe has long established its hulking dominance over the entertainment industry, even if its presence has been questioned as later phases have been introduced. The quality of Marvel Studio's ceaseless output inevitably promises that the end of the MCU is far from near - a promise that ignores the swell of superhero fatigue amid a mediocre slate of Marvel Studios productions. Marvel's currently-divisive era has generated both lukewarm critical responses and extreme reactions from audiences. The comic book movie giant has been begged to explore genres and narratives outside of its comfort zone after its computer-generated worlds and one-trick one-liners lost their luster. Michael Giacchino's Werewolf by Night, a Marvel Studios Special Presentation, takes a leading step in the direction of genre diversity for the MCU.
Werewolf by Night is a richly atmospheric homage to the classic horror movies that have laid the foundation for modern-day thrillers. Cast in eerie black-and-white, the visual structure, cinematic aesthetics, and tone are a fresh break that mostly steps away from the recycled tropes found in the MCU. The television film is not completely isolated from the brand as Werewolf by Night's final act concludes on a lighter note; despite its tamer ending, Giacchino's use of gore comes as a shocking surprise. Violent spurts are crafted in a way where their intermittence is thoughtfully placed and timed with care. Omitting an over-indulgent amount of graphic imagery makes more intense moments all the more impactful upon the narrative at the heart of Werewolf by Night. The most clever trait of Werewolf by Night is how it presents itself - clocking in at under an hour as an easy Halloween watch, the Special Presentation leaves itself open-ended without specification as to what may follow.
Giacchino's emulation of monster movies is stylistically and tonally daring for Marvel Studios, though Werewolf by Night cannot completely uphold its promise of thrills from title card to closing credits. A muddled middle loses momentum and the featurette slows down as a consequence of some dialogue that feels as if it directs attention away from what Giacchino fully wants to achieve. The screenwriting team nestles their story into a comfortable middle ground of supernatural fantasy and creature feature, striking a tamer premise with tastes of horror. Marvel's horror-inspired piece is a risk worth taking as it successfully distances itself from some MCU stereotypes and shakes off the textbook superhero affiliation. Werewolf by Night serves as a light, simple, unique-to-the-franchise introduction to Marvel's untapped world of horror. 7/10.
*There are no post-credit scenes in Werewolf by Night.