It is the night of the hunt. Ulysses Bloodstone, the keeper of the weapon aptly named the Bloodstone, has perished. Hunters have gathered for a chance to prove themselves in a trial by combat against a dangerous creature, and each other, for the right to possess the stone. It’s a simple and straightforward setup to a short film that’s part battle royale and part monster movie, wrapped up in less than an hour.
A story of that length doesn’t lend itself to introduce characters, set up plot, have multiple action scenes, build tension, have a resolution and an epilogue, but it manages to do so by moving at a brisk pace while also cutting out the excess. There are only five hunters that have been brought to fight for the right to wield the Bloodstone, but only two get character development beyond the idea that they’re dangerous killers. Fight scenes are fast, emphasizing the brutality of violence alongside cartwheeling choreography, but it doesn’t take long before blood stains the camera lens.
Werewolf by Night is a modern take on the classics instead of an imitation, and every aspect of the movie that draws inspiration from that era of monster films never feels the need to be chained down by their inspirations. The titular werewolf’s makeup effects have more in common with the practical effects of The Wolfman (1941) or An American Werewolf in London (1981), but the actual creature that is being hunted in the story is a giant digital behemoth. The old trope of man being the real monster gets placed alongside monsters showing empathy to others. The film is in black-and-white, but there is still color used for plot purposes, such as the red glow of the Bloodstone, along with a surprisingly brilliant homage to The Wizard of Oz (1939) that takes the expected imagery and flips it, creating new meaning from it.
The short film is written by Disney Plus veterans Peter Cameron and Heather Quinn, both of whom wrote for Hawkeye (2022), with Michael Giacchino directing and composing. When it comes to music composition Giacchino is a very familiar name, having composed music for a lot of JJ Abrams projects going all the way back to Alias (2001-2006).
This is only his third credit in the director’s chair, and what he has created is more than just a tribute to monster movies of the past, taking inspiration from them for style and building a new story on their foundation. While it would have been nice if there was more of it, there is something to be said about a film that knows exactly what it wants to do and doesn’t wear out its welcome.