In Werewolf By Night, Harriet Sansom Harris Gives One Of Marvel's Best Performances

Spoilers for "Werewolf By Night" follow.

There's a lot that you can say about the acting throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While some actors in their respective projects do pull off some great acting performances (Robert Downey Jr. in "Avengers: Endgame" comes to mind), there are also many instances where the characters on screen simply sound like they are reciting lines rather than actually acting. Perhaps this is because of how the franchise feels built on a conveyor belt, the majority of them feeling so similar to each other that it's hard to distinguish them apart.

That lack of uniqueness is arguably what makes "Werewolf By Night," the newly-released one-off Halloween special, work as well as it does. While obviously retaining some aspects of the franchise, it is just weird and wacky enough to differentiate itself from other recent MCU projects.

Because of this weirdness, the cast is able to let lose a little bit, but none more so than Harriet Sansom Harris. Playing the newly-appointed matriarch of the Bloodstone clan, the character actress and frequent Paul Thomas Anderson collaborator gives the most unhinged performance ever seen in the MCU. It also serves as one of the best across the entire franchise. No, I'm not exaggerating.

Our whole mission is built on mercy

Before going any further, let's first briefly touch upon Verussa Bloodstone, the widow of the famous monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone (Richard Dixon), and the stepmother to his daughter, Elsa (Laura Donnelly). We first see her decked out in her grieving widow's best, speaking in an accent that can only be described as a posh British accent combined with a transatlantic one. Right out the gate, Verussa is an icon, and dare I say the Debbie Jellinsky of the MCU.

This isn't a shallow comparison, either. When introducing the band of monster hunters viewers follow throughout the special, Harris chews up the scenery like she's performing a one-woman play, which helps when your primary scene partner is an animatronic dead body. Seriously, every time Verussa and the decrepit Ulysses are in a shot together, she is just beaming up at his disgusting corpse. It's ridiculous, but that's what makes it so charming.

It's also worth noting that Verussa is not unlike some of the many female characters of the Universal Classic Monsters, to which "Werewolf By Night" serves as a love letter. There are hints of Marya Zaleska from "Dracula's Daughter" (Gloria Holden) and Mary Shelley in "The Bride of Frankenstein" (Elsa Lanchester) in her performance, especially in her sinisterly prim and proper mannerisms.

One final cry

However, Harris goes beyond charming and into full-blown madness once the secret of Jack Russell (Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal) is revealed. The breathy cackle she lets out upon seeing the hunter's true form alone is worth dissecting into several articles, but it is her final screams and yells towards the end of her demise that ultimately sells the entire thing. Her wailing of "you let him go! You will now die as you lived, a disgrace to your father's memory and the hallow Bloodstone name" is easily more passionate than anything being delivered in current MCU projects.

Harris's performance in "Werewolf By Night" might be campy and overexaggerated, but that is exactly the type of performance the MCU needs sometimes. The franchise has become so self-serious that even its attempts at poking fun at itself feel forced. Verussa, on the other hand, feels natural, even if she's parading around a room, wailing about how her poor husband has died and how her stepdaughter is a failure. Sure, she couldn't exist in the real world, but why is the MCU so concerned about maintaining realism in a world where multiverse travel is possible? Exaggerated circumstances, such as the ones depicted in this special, should call for exaggerated performances, and Harris absolutely delivered on that front.

"Werewolf By Night" is now streaming on Disney+.