Michael Giacchino, director and composer of “Werewolf by Night,” has talked about his childhood love for the “Creature Double Feature” and all the horror movies it included. This special in particular is most influenced by Universal Horror, the 1930s through ’40s films which starred horror icons like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Universal Horror’s influence is why the film is shot in black-and-white (that and it allowed more gruesome violence). There’s more 1930s-esque aesthetic touches too: cigarette burn effects, a fog filter, and old-fashioned title card. But genre is more than aesthetics.
Certain Marvel movies have been praised to incorporating other genres and mixing them with superhero tropes. However, these mixes don’t pass the surface level. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was called a “political thriller,” even by Kevin Feige himself. However, “Winter Soldier” has too much action and its morality too black-and-white to be in that genre. Even though “Winter Soldier” features Robert Redford, it’s closer to “Mission Impossible” than “Three Days of the Condor.” After its premiere, “WandaVision” was compared by some to David Lynch, simply because it was set in something’s-not-right suburbia. The show then devoted two whole episodes to laborious exposition and ended with two witches shooting energy beams at each other. “WandaVision” is many things, but “Blue Velvet” it is not.
“Werewolf by Night” is, unfortunately, another case of this. Closer to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” than “The Wolf Man,” all the blood and gore is presented in an action context, not a horror one. Whenever someone’s getting chopped up or incinerated, it’s hard to be scared because we’re rooting against them. Marvel’s trademark humor is subdued, but it’s not absent either. As usual, there’s also magical MacGuffin at play: the Bloodstone is practically a seventh Infinity Stone.