An Ode To The Bloody Rampage Of Marvel's Werewolf By Night

Note: This article contains major spoilers for "Werewolf By Night."

Whether he's crafting a sense of melancholic grandeur for the Caped Crusader or the retro spy theme of a superhero family, Michael Giacchino is one of the most prolific composers working today. Given how much we know him for his musical acumen, it came as quite the surprise when it was announced that he would be stepping into the director's seat for a Marvel Halloween special.

Based on the '70s horror comic of the same name, the Disney+ special "Werewolf By Night" sees a cluster of monster hunters from around the world gather on the sacred Bloodstone compound to see who will claim heir to an all-powerful stone. All it requires is one of them to slay the creature known as Man-Thing. But most of them have no idea they're in the presence of yet another monster just howling to reveal themselves.

Giacchino is the last person I expected to helm a project for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, after seeing what he's capable of behind the camera, it was clear from the get-go that he was the perfect candidate. After all, Giacchino has made it known that he adores monster movies, specifically the classic Universal Monsters.

"Werewolf By Night" not only feels like a loving tribute to the monster flicks of the '30s and '40s, but also the violent aesthetics of the Hammer filmography. As someone who fell in love with the Universal Monster movies in my younger years, this hit a very special sweet spot.

Giacchino outdid himself in the first half, but it's in the special's gory climax where the "Ratatouille" composer cements "Werewolf By Night" as one of the coolest things the MCU has ever done.

The Werewolf of Bloodstone wreaks havoc

In the short time allotted, "Werewolf By Night" keeps an air of suspense as to who the titular monster is going to be — although it's not exactly a secret that Jack (Gael García Bernal) is the Lon Chaney Jr. in the room. Once the other hunters catch on that Jack isn't who he says he is, he's trapped in a massive acorn-shaped cage along with Laura Donnelly's Elsa, the estranged Bloodstone daughter who wants nothing to do with the family business.

Given how the special takes time to build a bond between Jack and Elsa, an air of suspense derives from whether the Werewolf will hurt her or not. When Verusa (Harriet Sansom Harris) uses the Bloodstone to unleash Jack's inner night beast, the hidden monster in their midst finally makes himself known.

I could go all day about the makeup, but to keep my praise short, Giacchino largely continues the long-standing tradition of practical effects. The transformation is done in shadow to great effect, but once you see the gruff and hairy Jack emerge from his cage, his full design looks phenomenal. He is the last thing you would want to encounter on a cold night in the woods, and it only helps that the first time you lay eyes on Bernal's face, Giacchino pulls off a perfect dolly zoom shot on Jack, as his glowing Werewolf eyes are illuminated in the darkness.

With Marvel's titular monster unleashed, it's time for Wolfy to go to town in a gloriously violent sequence that warmed my movie monster-loving heart.

A Werewolf set loose on an actual set

Where most MCU action sequences take place in front of a green screen, "Werewolf By Night" appears to also have been shot on an actual set. The special takes place entirely within the Bloodstone compound, alternating between the hunting grounds and the trophy room. Jack spends the first half trying to fit in among the other hunters, but you'll notice his subtle displeasure upon seeing a lineup of monsters adorned on the wall.

With the Bloodstones having wiped out god knows how many monsters in the MCU, the trophy room is the most fitting place for him to unleash his rage, and it's an incredible set to see. Of course the CG does its work when Jack needs to leap all around the room, but the setting itself looks so good that you hardly even notice. It can almost be difficult to pay attention when Jack is ripping people apart because there's so much cool stuff just lounging around in the background. But make no mistake, when Bernal goes into berserker mode, it's a sight to behold.

If we disregard the Netflix shows, the gory culmination of "Werewolf By Night" is one of the most violent things Marvel has ever done, and I couldn't be happier. Between "Moon Knight" and "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," it's been pretty great to see the MCU finally taking steps outside their comfort zone. With an inherently violent character such as "Blade" about to join the MCU, it makes sense to push beyond the PG-13 threshold where most Marvel properties tend to comfortably rest.

Giacchino pushes the threshold of Marvel violence

With "Werewolf By Night," however, we have the massive beast of the night ripping people apart left and right. You better believe Jack's going to go to town on the Bloodstone hunters after everything they put his pal Man-Thing through. And it's so much cooler knowing that most of the wolf action is performed by a guy in a costume. You really feel the weight of his anger when he lunges at someone.

Jack makes a mess of the Bloodstone trophy room, but once his inner Wolfman steps inside that hallway, all bets are off. Giacchino sets up an incredible shot in which a guard is thrown backward toward encroaching soldiers and Jack lets loose on guard after guard. I had the biggest grin on my face as Jack turned the entire room into a bloody rampage worthy of any monster.

Lights are flashing, bodies are piling up, blood is spilling, and all the while, a strobing light effect highlights the true horror of being trapped face-to-face with a bloodthirsty creature of the night. The blood from his victims spraying directly on the camera is the cherry on top of this Halloween horror sundae.

Well done, Mr. Giacchino. Well done.

"Werewolf by Night" is currently streaming on Disney+.