Marvel forgoes superheroes for monsters in the Disney+ special ‘Werewolf by Night’

An eerie man with stitched face and light-colored eyes lies in a satin-lined coffin.
Ulysses Bloodstone in “Werewolf by Night” on Disney+.
(Marvel Studios)

Hey! It’s Sonaiya Kelley, covering for Mark Olsen. Bear with me for a horror-themed edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

Horror outdoors. No matter your scary-movie preference, Rooftop Cinema Club has got you covered. The outdoor movie screening series will show all manner of horror/Halloween content this weekend, including “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975), “Scary Movie” (2000), “Halloweentown” (1998), “Hocus Pocus” (1993), “American Psycho” (2000), “It” (2017), “Jaws” (1975) and “Halloween” (1978) across its three Los Angeles locations.

Mexican horror at the Academy Museum. On Thursday, the Academy Museum opened its film series “Mexico Maleficarum: Resurrecting 20th Century Mexican Horror Cinema” with the double feature “El Vampiro” and “Cronos.” The 20-film program, whose subject matter includes lusty vampires and mad scientists as well as witches and doll people, continues this weekend with three more double screenings and a guest appearance by actor Rosita Arenas.

Female-fronted horror. Celebrate the 10th anniversary of Kier-La Janisse’s pioneering exploration of female neurosis, “House of Psychotic Women,” with Shudder’s 36-film collection of women-led horror films including Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook,” Dario Argento’s “Phenomena,” Mickey Keating’s “Darling,” Umberto Lenzi’s “Orgasmo” and Claire Denis’ “Trouble Every Day.” And check out the book’s recently released expanded edition.

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‘Werewolf by Night’

Marvel Studios flexes its range with the special presentation “Werewolf by Night,” proving it’s just as capable of scares as it is superheroes. Composer Michael Giacchino makes his directorial debut with the film — which has been in the works for more than two decades — from a script by Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron. Gael Garcia Bernal and Laura Donnelly star as monster hunters summoned to compete for the top seat of their monster hunter guild. The monochrome, retro-styled gothic horror had its premiere at Fantastic Fest and is now streaming on Disney+.

For Variety, Jordan Moreau wrote, “It’s the creepiest and bloodiest Marvel project by far, and clocking in at a lean 53 minutes long, it’s a perfect, snack-sized Halloween treat heading into the spookiest of seasons. … ‘Werewolf by Night’ is a triumphant first effort at losing the capes and spandex and delving into more genre territory for Marvel.”

For Bloody Disgusting, Meagan Navarro wrote, “Bernal and Donnelly are instantly winsome. There’s an easy chemistry between them and an oddball pairing dynamic that charms. Their performances are infectious, and the script presents just enough character details about them that reel you in but leaves you wanting to know more. It’s through [their characters] that ‘Werewolf’ ultimately succeeds. The occasional macabre and horror humor also helps.”

For Rolling Stone, David Fear wrote, “Welcome to an adaptation of a 1970s horror comic filmed like a 1940s Universal horror movie, made in service of the 21st century’s biggest intellectual-property soap opera. … ‘Werewolf by Night’ feels less like a franchise detour than a fun day trip into previously untrampled genre territory. ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ only flirted with true spookiness in its final third. This aims to be a full-on endorphin rush for horror nerds.”

For the Hollywood Reporter, Daniel Fienberg wrote, “‘Werewolf by Night’ is a tiny bit scary, but not too scary. It’s a little bit gory, but not too too gory. The special is driven more by makeup effects than CG, but there’s some of that as well, and while you see some decently realized creatures and whatnot, the sound design takes the place of anything overt or graphic.”

Close-up of a woman with mascara running down her face, pressed against bars as she screams.
Harriet Sansom Harris as Verussa in “Werewolf by Night.”
(Marvel Studios)

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David O. Russell’s imperfect star vehicle “Amsterdam” tells the story of Burt and Harold (Christian Bale and John David Washington, respectively), who become devoted friends while fighting together in World War I and later add a combat nurse (Margot Robbie) to their bromance. After becoming embroiled in a murder investigation with roots in a larger government conspiracy, they cross paths with an A-list cast of supporting characters including Zoe Saldaña, Chris Rock, Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Mike Myers and Michael Shannon. The film is now playing in theaters.

For The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “Like Russell’s splendid ’70s caper, ‘American Hustle’ (2013), the movie is a roving piece of period whimsy and a madcap history lesson, a parade of concealed motives and cunning switcheroos loosely inspired — and just barely held together — by real-world events. But unlike ‘Hustle,’ ‘Amsterdam’ only fitfully locates the moment-to-moment comic verve — or the bittersweet sense of longing — that would give these characters and their farcical shenanigans the deeper human resonance it’s clearly aiming for.”

For Tribune News Service, Katie Walsh wrote, “There’s a lot wrong with ‘Amsterdam’: the dull writing, its interminable ‘busy-ness,’ the dinner theater caliber of acting, the fact that the whole thing looks like it’s been soaked in tea. But worst of all it has a bad case of what one could call ‘Don’t Look Up’ disease, in which a film tries to exist solely on movie stars and a desire to lecture the audience about impending doom.”

For the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday wrote, “Russell’s fantastical take on [1933’s Business Plot], in which he mixes fact and fiction with extravagant abandon, can’t be called a success. It’s too scattershot, too much in its own manic, mannered head to qualify as a coherent, much less compelling narrative. But in its own bless-this-mess way, ‘Amsterdam’ pays appropriate homage to the eras it invokes, both past and present. It’s so wild, so dreamlike, so utterly preposterous that it could only be a little bit true.”

For Associated Press, Mark Kennedy wrote, “It’s a film where no one seems to answer a direct question, gruesome autopsies are performed on camera followed by whimsically sung ditties, and a script that tries for the profound when it says things like people ‘follow the wrong God home.’”

A man with an eyepatch and a man with a bandage on his cheek pose on either side of a woman holding a pipe.
From left, Christian Bale, Margot Robbie and John David Washington in “Amsterdam.”
(Merie Weismiller Wallace / 20th Century Studios)


The classic S&M body horror “Hellraiser” gets updated in this reboot/sequel featuring the first female Pinhead (played to androgynous perfection by Jamie Clayton). The film, now streaming on Hulu, is the 11th in the franchise, which began in 1987.

For The Times, Noel Murray wrote, “The new ‘Hellraiser’ is suitably bloody, and Bruckner and company understand (at least theoretically) the core of [Clive] Barker’s premise, in which people’s rapacious needs end up hurting everyone in their general vicinity. The movie even has a great Pinhead, played by Jamie Clayton, who captures the Hell Priest’s eerie calm and unsettlingly alien carriage. But while this film looks better and feels more serious than most of the ‘Hellraiser’ sequels, there’s something pro forma about it. … Conceptually, the picture works. But over the course of two hours, what was shocking becomes numbing.”

For the Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck wrote, “The new ‘Hellraiser’ looks terrific (at least what you can see of it, it’s awfully dark), boasting a visual stylishness commensurate with its relatively large budget and the talents of its director David Bruckner. … The screenplay, written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski (veteran writer David S. Goyer gets a story credit), proves less interesting, never bothering to fully flesh out its determinedly diverse assemblage of characters. Of course, considering what winds up happening to most of their flesh, that’s not necessarily a major drawback.”

For IndieWire, Jude Dry wrote, “Based off of Clive Barker’s 1986 novella and originally adapted by Barker in one of the great writer-to-filmmaker transformations, ‘Hellraiser’ belongs to the freaks, punks, and fetishists who saw themselves in the S&M-inspired looks and story of unhinged sexual exploration. Unfortunately, all of the kinky perversion has been scrubbed clean from the new version, with only a nice gay couple left in its place. It’s Disney does ‘Hellraiser,’ which — incidentally — is exactly who paid for this latest iteration of the classic.”

For Variety, Owen Gleiberman wrote, “What marks the characters as ‘Disney characters’ is that they possess none of the hidden edges or curlicues of the characters in, say, ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies.’ They’re youth-movie ciphers with almost no intrinsic interest; they’re as colorless as the heroes of a ‘Scooby-Doo’ movie. For an hour or so, as it’s setting things up, ‘Hellraiser’ is close to deadly. The characters really are just walking meat-in-waiting. The movie could have been called ‘Bodies Bodies Bodies (with Chain Hooks).’”

Pins protrude in a geometric pattern from the head of a figure with no hair.
Jamie Clayton as Pinhead in “Hellraiser,” on Hulu.
(Spyglass Media Group)