TV Shows
Published October 10, 2022

‘Werewolf by Night’: Physically Creating the Dark, Mysterious Part of the MCU

"If there's going to be a monster to react to, let's have a monster on set."

werewolf by night

You might not be watching Werewolf by Night on a dark and stormy night, but the first-ever Marvel Studios Special Presentation certainly feels like it was designed for exactly that vibe. The hour-long special, directed by Michael Giacchino (a long-time Marvel composer, who yes, also scored the music for this) focuses on a group of monster hunters who come together for one night for one epic hunt along with an even bigger prize: The Bloodstone.

However, among them is one non-monster hunter, who’s actually a monster, Jack Russell, aka Werewolf by Night. He’s actually here on a rescue mission to rescue his friend Man-Thing — actually, call him “Ted.” As soon as the hunt begins, it’s a race for Jack to get to Ted before the rest of the hunters and all is going according to plan. That is until Jack makes the unfortunate decision to touch the Bloodstone with his hands, revealing to everyone else what darkness lies within him.

“The idea is if you were looking at this big picture of the MCU, you've got Super Heroes and you've got aliens and multiple dimensions and trips outer space and planets…and then in the corner, you might know something that's a little bit dark, a little mysterious,” Co-Executive Producer Brian Gay tells “You say, what is that down there? And that's what this is. This is hiding in the shadows for centuries. There have always been monsters. They have lived and walked among us and now we're bringing them out.”

And considering that this is the first time Marvel Studios is rolling out a Special Presentation, Gay continues, the initial thought was always, “Let's do something a little bit different. The idea is that in this special, you get your first little taste of what it's like to have monsters in the MCU. The whole question is what happens next. We don't know, but we just want to tease out this idea that the world is a little bit bigger than you knew and a little bit scarier.”

The special kicks off with some brand new Marvel fanfare announcing the special presentation, before going into a very old-school intro, a proper nod to monster movies from yesteryear, something everyone loved watching as a kid.

“How do we properly pay homage to them but also kind of put our own twist on it?” Gay continues. “[The answer was] to dive into the things that we loved. Let's go black and white, let's put a little film grain on it, let's put in the reel changes, let's do that old-style title card. And we found when you go all in, you love it even more.”

“I grew up watching monster movies as a kid,” Giacchino tells “Every Saturday, my brother and I were glued to the television watching monster movies. For us, it was like going to church. That was our church on Saturdays, watching monster movies. Creature double feature outside of Philadelphia.”

Giacchino also wants to stress that Werewolf by Night is “a self-contained story that doesn't connect to anything over here, over there. It exists within our Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, it exists there. These characters are at the same time as everyone else. But we're not going to physically show that. This is just a night in the life of Jack and Elsa [Bloodstone]. Let's just go with that and not worry about all of the other stuff.”

Something else Giacchino didn’t want to worry about was green screens. While the film technique is technically used in big-budget action films across the Marvel Cinematic Universe to create fantastic things, Giacchino shied away from them.

“I said, if there's going to be a monster to react to, let's have a monster on set,” he continues. “If there's going to be an effect, let's figure out a way to try and do it practically if we can. So wherever we could, we did.”

This meant that Giacchino was insistent on actually having a real, moving Ted on set for the cast to interact with. “It was important to me that we had that so the actors had an understanding of the character that they were talking to. I did not want some person with a stick and a tennis ball, and pointing to that going, ‘OK, that's the monster.’”

“KNB EFX built this beautiful, beautiful Ted, the eyes moved and everything, the face, and all of the stuff. It had these huge arms that came out and could grab people and move. I mean, it was incredible to have that on set, and it was invaluable sort of information to have in terms of looking at lighting, looking at how it stood so that when we did do some visual effects on the film, they were able to use that as a source.”

Ted wasn’t the only practical character on set, as there was really an actor in the werewolf costume, too, lending to the performance’s authenticity.

“I'm really proud of the prosthetic that was put for the werewolf, that's not something that we did later in post,” Gay adds. “It was a challenge, of course, to get into and get the actors into every day, it was a challenge to perform. But I think that you see the performance that blends that humanity and the monster, and that's what we were hoping for the whole time. We want to make sure that you see these not just as some evil killing monster, but there's something behind those eyes. Doing the practical effects really helped with that.”

But not only was the team doing practical effects with actual monsters on set but production designer Maya Shimoguchi really built a whole Bloodstone rotunda and the garden for the monster hunt. 

“Every day, I would walk onto that soundstage and say, ‘I cannot believe that they let me build this,’” Giacchino recalls with a laugh. “You'd walk through the maze. And then as you're walking through the maze, you see the mausoleum. I mean, it's all there. All of that. Everything you see on the show was built. It was there. Maya did an incredible job designing all of these things. Working with her and her team, set dressing, all of that was fascinating. And I think the thing about it was everyone was having so much fun because it was something tactical— something tactile that they were making. They were making something physical and real that you could hold in your hand or touch. It was all there.”

“When you're in a situation where you're in a monster hunt, as I'm sure you've been in before, it's very intimate, it's very tension-filled, it's very scary,” Gay adds. “And that's why we wanted to build the garden, which is sort of part maze, part garden, to make it feel small and squeeze people in there. When you put the big lumbering mass of a beast or monster in there, you feel it. The performance is there, and it just feels a little bit scarier than it would otherwise.”

Werewolf by Night is now streaming on Disney+. 


WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #1 cover by E.M. Gist


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