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A candlelit Laura Donnelly looms into frame looking grim as Elsa Bloodstone in Werewolf By Night Image: Marvel Studios

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Yes, Werewolf by Night is MCU canon — weird, weird canon

‘We just don’t show you where, when, how.’

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Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Marvel Studios’ oddball Halloween horror special Werewolf by Night opens on a stylized art fresco of the Avengers. A voice-over explains that we’re all familiar with certain events in the world of light, but no one ever talks about the world below, where Werewolf’s story takes place. Then it goes on to tell a story about monsters, creatures never seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

That fresco is a mighty elliptical way of addressing whether Werewolf by Night’s story takes place within established MCU canon — especially since visually and narratively, it looks nothing like the rest of the MCU. Mostly shot in black and white, with heavily stylized performances and goofy violence straight out of a Hammer horror classic, the hourlong Disney Plus mini-movie feels like it takes place entirely in its own world. And the MCU has spent the last few years establishing the existence of the multiverse, and different worlds where anything might happen.

So Polygon asked director Michael Giacchino to clarify: Does Werewolf by Night take place on Earth-616, in the familiar MCU timeline?

The definitive answer, he says, is yes.

“Oh, we tried for a long time to just say [in the intro], Look, this is part of the MCU,” Giacchino says. “But it felt like we also needed to show it as well. And I said, ‘Well, what if we just showed it in the same illustrative way that we’re showing these other images up front?’

Like other recent MCU stories — Eternals, for instance — Werewolf by Night introduces new ideas to the MCU, like the key MacGuffin, a magical item called the Bloodstone. There are also new characters, including Elsa Bloodstone, heir to the Bloodstone family, played by The Nevers’ Laura Donnelly, and Jack, a contender for the Bloodstone, played by Gael García Bernal. But it also tells viewers all these people and things have been there all along. In this case, those ideas include vampires, werewolves, stranger monsters like Man-Thing, and a family that hunts them down and kills them with the help of the Bloodstone.

“There’s this whole corner of the Marvel Universe that no one knows anything about,” Giacchino says. “It’s a very underground sort of area. And these hunters and these monsters, they all kind of exist in the shadows, in a place the rest of the world won’t admit to, or doesn’t pay attention to.’ That [intro] was our way of saying, All of that other stuff is still there, it’s all good. No one worry! [laughs]”

Btu where does Werewolf by Night fit into the MCU timeline? Giacchino isn’t saying.

“People tend to want this connectivity to everything,” he says. “They’ve been sort of trained in the MCU to know that everything is connected in some way, everything is going on in some similar timeline. This [story] does happen in the MCU, during all of that, we just don’t show you where, when, how. And it’s not important to show that, because what’s important are these characters. This is going to be a story — one night in the life of [protagonists] Jack and Elsa, that’s what you’re going to get. And then where we go from there, we’ll see. We’ll see. Who knows?”

Giacchino’s special does seem like it’s helping to set up the story of vampire hunter Blade, but he says that was never part of any conversation about Werewolf by Night.

“We never had any mandate to queue up anything,” he says. “It was really just Let’s tell this story. I guess by default, we’re saying, Look, monsters exist in the MCU. That was the one thing we did want to say was, Look, yes, these things exist, they’re here, we’re gonna show them to you. And then from there, you can go anywhere you want. […] When Blade comes, people are already ready for it. But there was never a mandate to say this is a way of connecting to this, and connecting to that. That was never a part of it.”

While Werewolf by Night establishes Elsa and Jack in the grand MCU continuity, the special doesn’t offer much about their pasts or futures. This is all as intended by Giacchino.

“I was able to just go in and tell the story I wanted to tell without worrying about Where was Jack right before this? or Where does he go right after this?” Giacchino says. “If I were a kid and I saw this, I would make it all up in my head. Part of doing this was to create those discussions. That’s what was fun about this stuff as a kid, was wondering what’s going to happen, or where it’s going to go. Not knowing is more exciting than knowing. It’s like horror — what you don’t see is more frightening than what you do see. That was our rule of thumb all along the way.”

The question of where Jack and Elsa might go next is still open. Could Werewolf by Night get a sequel, spinoff, or series of its own?

“I mean, I love these characters. I would hate to just abandon them,” Giacchino says. “I would love to do more with them, of course. Up until now, though, we’ve been just working our butts off to get the film done so we could get it out into the world. Maybe now we’ll have some time to reflect and look at it and figure out what happens.”

Werewolf by Night debuts on Disney Plus on Oct. 7.


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