Gael García Bernal, in character as Jack Russell, has white markings on his face. He is standing in a dimly lit room and has a stern look on his face.

How Marvel Studios Unleashes Its Monstrous Side in Werewolf by Night

By Zach Johnson

Over the years, Michael Giacchino has scored multiple movies for Marvel Studios, from 2016’s Doctor Strangeto this year’s Thor: Love and Thunder. But for his directorial debut, Giacchino wanted something less mystical, less cosmic, and far more macabre.

About four years ago, Giacchino was having a casual conversation with Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, when he mentioned that he was interested in directing. “I said I wanted to do Werewolf by Night, and he was like... ‘What?‘” Giacchino tells D23 with a laugh. “Most people would say, ‘Give me Spider-Man!’ But I was like, ‘No, I want the most obscure, weird thing you have—and as a kid, that was Werewolf by Night.”

Inspired by horror films of the 1930s and 1940s, the chilling Special Presentation Werewolf by Night—now streaming on Disney+—evokes a sense of dread in a new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The eerie tale follows a secret cabal of monster hunters who, on a dark and somber night, emerge from the shadows and gather at the foreboding Bloodstone Temple to pay tribute to their late leader, Ulysses. However, they are soon thrust into a mysterious and deadly competition for a powerful relic—one that will bring them face to face with a dangerous monster. “It’s our first ever MCU special, so it had to be different,” explains Feige, who executive produces Werewolf by Night. “It’s a little darker, a little scarier, but still fun for fans.”

Actress Laura Donnelly, in character as Elsa Bloodstone, is trapped in a cage. She is grabbing the bars with both hands and screaming as a shadowy figure approaches.

“I think it’s genuinely, completely unique in the MCU,” Laura Donnelly, who plays monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone, tells D23. “I don’t think anybody has seen anything like this in the Marvel Universe before, and I’m really, really excited to be a part of it.”

A nod to classic black-and-white monster films of yesteryear, Werewolf by Night originates from Marvel comics, where the character Jack Russell first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #2 in 1972; he starred in his own series of comic books later that year, and now Golden Globe® winner Gael García Bernal is bringing him to life onscreen. Enigmatically, he tells D23, “I think people will be very excited to see where this goes.”

Giacchino calls Werewolf by Night “a giant mashup love letter” to his favorite monster movies of yesteryear, telling D23, “My brother and I spent every Saturday watching Creature Double Feature; that was our church. I had such an affinity for those movies. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to make a new monster movie under the Marvel banner?’”

Indeed, Giacchino promises viewers are in for plenty of chills and thrills when they stream the MCU’s first Special Presentation. “Horror is all about what you don’t know and what you think is about to happen or what you think you see or what you think you hear. I am trying to use that for us as much as possible,” Giacchino explains, adding, “For me, some of the scariest things I saw as a kid watching old movies on Creature Double Feature were just the shadows. If you saw a shadow creep by a wall, whether it was a defined shadow of a particular creature or just an amorphous shape, that was always so much scarier than anything that you could literally show me on screen. And that’s what I kept thinking about. How do we do that? How do we embrace that idea?”

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