Marvel’s ‘Werewolf by Night’ Sets Stage for a Horror-Style Avengers Crossover
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s shadows are coming together to form a new corner in the ever-expanding franchise. It is not populated by brightly dressed heroes who can take the spotlight as Avengers or villains who demand the attention of the world, but rather by grey-colored monsters that are forced to navigate a black-and-white world. While Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness cracked the door open to Marvel Studios horror, Michael Giacchino’s Werewolf by Night, a 53-minute entry billed as a “Marvel Special Presentation,” blows that door off its hinges and fully immerses audiences in a world that has long existed on the fringes, even within the realm of Marvel publishing. 50 years ago, Marvel Comics changed their universe by welcoming horror into its midst. And now, 50 years later, it’s happening again on the film and television side. Marvel has been attacked by monsters.
Werewolf by Night , Giacchino is well-known as the composer of blockbuster films such as Doctor Strange Spider-Man: No Way Back and The Batman ,. He is a double threat in the entertainment industry. More than simply a capable filmmaker, Giacchino exceeds expectations and creates a loving ode to Universal and Hammer horror films, wrapped up inside the action and atmosphere of Marvel horror comics of the ’70s.
Werewolf by Night , has a clear passion and it is evident that Giacchino has done his research as both a filmmaker, and as a comic fan. The Halloween special features a group monster-hunters battling each other for the Bloodstone, an artifact that can weaken or control monsters. Ted Sallis, a scientist and muck-monster who is now known as Man-Thing, is the common threat. Jack Russell Gael Garca Bernal ),, his friend, has infiltrated and partnered with Elsa (Laura Donnelly), to save him. Once Jack’s true nature is revealed by the other hunters, it’s much easier to say than do.
It’s a simple premise but such a fun one in that it feels like it could have been pulled from a back issues bin (despite Elsa Bloodstone being a relatively recent character, first appearing in 2001). It doesn’t matter if the characters are grounded or how the entry fits into the larger MCU. Werewolf by Night is a pure monster mash that contains plenty of bloodshed and lore. It does not reflect a larger mythology that includes vampires, monsters, and curses. In fact, it’s not so dissimilar in purpose than the film that made Marvel a cinematic giant to be reckoned with: Blade (1998). Werewolf by Night has all the Marvel characters and concepts Stephen Norrington’s film did not have. The fact that audiences get a fully-realized Man-Thing in the special (Kevin Feige’s idea) for the first time in live-action since 2005’s disappointing horror attempt, Man-Thing, speaks volumes to just how invested Marvel is in building this world out.
Giacchino and Brian Gay, co-executive producers, have discussed the future of Marvel’s monsters and the lore that dates back centuries that could be explored further in Special Presentations. Man-Thing and Tomb of Dracula are Marvel’s semi-unique spins of Universal’s classic monsters. They feel like characters that can thrive in this space and could be further reimagined and performed by Giacchino and a few talented actors. There’s also the possibility that these characters, which are not known by most comic fans, could tie into larger projects with characters everyone is familiar with.
Fans hope that the TV special will lead to an MCU version of either the Legion of Monsters (formerly Midnight Sons) or the Midnight Suns. With a reboot of Blade, starring Mahershala Ali gearing up for production in the midst of a search for a new director, and Ghost Rider being a lobbied for role by Norman Reedus, Ryan Gosling and Keanu Reeves, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before these horror threads come together, and perhaps finally make good on my Mephisto theories. Some newcomers to Marvel horror may be puzzled at how Blade and the Werewolf can fit alongside Shang-Chi, Captain Marvel, and She-Hulk. However, the MCU is already building that bridge.
The comics have a lot of monster lore. The demon Cthon and The Darkhold are two of the sources of the legend behind the monsters. Both of these books were used in Multiverse of Madness .. The Marvel Universe can be traced back to the Cthon, which is responsible for all types of werewolves, vampires and witches. It is likely that Doctor Strange and The Scarlet Witch, Moon Knight, Agatha Harkness, will be the strings that connect Marvel’s horror world with the larger battles of The Avengers.
Marvel has something new here. They have clearly benefited from starting small and trying to do something completely different from what the franchise is known for. Werewolf by Night has a lot in common with Iron Man , where a director, well-known for their non-directing work put their stamp on characters that were previously considered non-A-list. Many of these characters were able to operate on their own in Marvel Universe. There was very little crossover with comic books. The major exception to that was Morbius, the Living Vampire – Marvel’s first official horror character, who debuted as a Spider-Man antagonist before becoming a prominent anti-hero throughout the ’70s. He linked Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing, and Ghost Rider together, eventually leading to the founding of the Legion of Monsters in 1976.
After the release of Jared Leto’s Morbius ., the internet may have accepted the notion that Morbius is a meme. It’s important to note that the character was key to the formation of the Legion of Monsters as well as the Midnight Sons. The film may not have worked for everyone, something I still chalk up to pre-release hyperbole more than what’s actually on the screen, but I still think it’s a solid start with a character that could be better utilized squaring off against Jack Russell or Blade. It doesn’t seem as far-fetched given the renewed collaboration between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures that has allowed characters to cross over between the MCU universe and Sony’s.
It doesn’t matter if that happens, but it feels good that three of Marvels original horror characters, Morbius and Werewolf by Night, were brought to screen this year along with a Doctor Strange film that leans towards Cthon, the Darkhold, and a Doctor Strange movie that leans into Cthon. In fact, the only original member of the Legion of Monsters missing is the team’s founder, Ghost Rider, currently celebrating his 70th anniversary in the comics and whose casting this year could break the internet.
It is becoming clearer that superheroes and horror movies are selling in today’s cinematic landscape. Marvel should continue to build a bridge between them. This will help the MCU’s longevity and variety, attracting more fans and regaining those who are tired of the square-jawed Avengers. And in this new age of gods and monsters, Marvel may end up beating Universal at its own dreams of a Dark Universe, the failed plan to create an MCU-style franchise of its own. However, some healthy competition is good for the genre and will hopefully help both franchises in their rediscoverys of classic monsters. Werewolf By Night is the current king.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.