From the opening title sequence, Marvel’s new Halloween special, Werewolf by Night, seems to know exactly what it is—a fun, spooky season throwback.
As the MARVEL title card flies across the screen, we hear screams and see flashes of claw marks. It’s reminiscent of classic horror films and even a little bit of Scream. The special is directed by Marvel composer Michael Giacchino, and it feels like one of the freshest things Marvel has put out in a long time.
One of the things that works especially well for Werewolf by Night is that it feels completely separate from the rest of the MCU. It feels like a fun one-off that could lead to more or something bigger— it’s new characters in a setting facing forces we haven’t seen before. It’s almost entirely in black & white and the setting seems more gothic and more ridiculous than the ones we’ve seen before.
The special opens with a narration discussing monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone, who has recently died. He possessed a supernatural item called the bloodstone, which gave him all his powers. For his funeral, other monster hunters are in attendance to join in on a ritual hunt to see who will win and claim the Bloodstone. We quickly meet our main characters, Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly) and Jack Russell (Gael Garcia Bernal), who are there for the hunt.
Elsa Bloodstone is the daughter of the recently deceased Ulysses. We learn that she abandoned the family a few years ago. We get the impression her relationship with her father was not…great. In the comics, Elsa is a grumpy, take no crap badass. She’s fought alongside a lot of the other supernatural characters in the comics and even traveled to the Marvel Zombie Universe to fight… most of the Zombified Marvel hero lineup. In her intro, she has a meeting with her stepmother, Verussa (Harriet Sansom Harris), where they quickly give us all the familial info we need. Elsa and her stepmother clearly hate each other, Verussa explicitly tells Elsa she was her father’s biggest disappointment. Elsa, however, doesn’t care. She’s like Jessica Jones meets Buffy Summers.
Jack Russell stays mysterious for the first act. He seems nervous and calm, not as intense as any of the other monster hunters, making him immediately charming. He tells another hunter at the start that he hasn’t killed any of the monsters we see taxidermied on the wall, but has faced them before. He also says he wears his face makeup to honor his family. That’s the only info he offers up, which is clearly on purpose for the later reveal that he is our title character, our werewolf (by night).
But during said hunt, we learn that Elsa, while not trained by her monster hunter father, has some moves of her own. She gets her head smashed against some concrete Michael Myers style and shrugs it off. She is the better fighter than Jack but they eventually come together as the two non-monster hunters. Jack informs her he is there to free the monster they’re hunting (Man-Thing from the comics, here named Ted) and that Elsa just wants what’s rightfully hers, the bloodstone. They team up and help free Ted but end up caught by Verussa and the rest of the monster hunter squad.
For a short 55-minute special, there are very clearly two distinct halves—before we meet the werewolf and after. Both halves have two different monsters, Ted and Jack. The second half leans heavily on the action and throwback horror visuals in the most fun way possible.
When our leads find themselves stuck together in a cage they both panic. Jack wants to make sure he doesn’t hurt her when turned into the werewolf, so he tells her to keep eye contact and starts smelling her so he can hopefully remember her scent. It’s ridiculous and also a little bit horny. The two of them are both incredibly charming and hot, so him sniffing her to save her life works. Then there’s the incredible visuals of him turning into the werewolf. It’s all straight out of a black & white monster movie. Elsa looks on in absolute terror as the shadow of the monster he’s becoming is displayed on the wall behind her.
The werewolf visuals are even more fun than the Ted visuals. They make the werewolf move and act like he’s pulled straight out of 1966’s The Wolfman. The action here also pumps up and gets surprisingly graphic. It’s not exactly a Saw movie, but for a Marvel special on Disney+, it feels pretty bloody. Jack rips off one of the character’s ears, slashes through the stomach of another person, while Elsa slits the throat of one character, and stabs another directly in the head.
The money shot though comes as Jack is tearing through the guards in a hallway where the lights are flashing and a steel door is slowly closing behind them. The POV, the lighting, the violence—it all works, creating this incredibly engaging scene, unlike anything we’ve seen in anything Marvel has done before.
Elsa and Jack make it out safely, both getting semi-happy endings—Jack reunites with Ted and Elsa gets the bloodstone.
Werewolf by Night is the best example of action horror that we’ve gotten in a long time. Here’s hoping they give us more. Give us Elsa, Jack, and Ted fighting against Kathryn Hahn’s Agatha from WandaVision next year!
A VERY HACKENSACK CHRISTMAS: Chucky Season 2 Episode 8 “Chucky Actually” Recap & Review
He’ll be back. They always come back. And when this show comes back next year…man, I’m getting a serious case of déjà vu!
Jokes aside, I want to thank all my recap readers out there and hope you enjoy this last one until next October rolls around; if you like them, try out the other assorted horror morsels here on Horror Press. But in the meanwhile, let’s get this final festive R&R going!
Following Andy’s execution of the final Chucky, her life flashes before her eyes…yes, HER, because it’s Mixter who’s trapped in there. It’s revealed Charles knocked Dr. Mixter out while Glenda was taking care of Sister Ruth in the Chapel, and that’s when he got his Ade Due Damballa switch in. Chucky’s early Christmas present is a clean slate, with nobody’s knowledge of his continued survival.
Three days before Christmas, Lexy visits N.A. and drops the truth about her addiction to an audience, in which Jake is sitting as her sponsor. It’s revealed everyone ended up getting their 100 hours of community service in following the Incarnate Lord chaos that got the school closed permanently, and Jake is crashing at Chez Cross with Lexy and her family for the holidays (namely so the former Mayor Michelle Cross can exploit the good PR of taking in two orphans at Christmastime; I mean, come on, that’s publicity gold!). I also should have been more suspicious of getting the holiday gift of more Barbara Alyn-Lind in this episode because she is at her peak of playing a perfectly preened and focus test polished scumbag.
Elsewhere, Glenda keeps vigil over a comatose Glen in the hospital, reporting to Tiffany that their condition is only worsening. A desperate Glenda asks her to pull out her Jennifer Tilly persona one last time to smuggle in the Glen/da doll so they can save Glen with another soul transfer. A cop catches them red-handed and Tiff hulk smashes a vase over his head before Glenda gives into the intrusive thoughts and electrocutes the cop’s face into bursting into flames (a tribute to their first flaming kill in Seed of Chucky).
Question: Is it still a yule log if it’s made of pork?
What matters is that the transfer goes off without a hitch. Good news: Glen and Glenda are back into one doll, voiced once more by the beloved Billy Boyd! Bad news, both of Lachlan Watson’s physical incarnations in the series are now dead, so we probably won’t get them again unless it’s through flashback. Better news: the new Glen-Glenda composite, now going by G.G., looks so glam! G.G. tells Tiffany they plan to travel the world, mentioning a visit to England before mother and child part ways tearfully.
Jake gifts Devon some podcasting equipment (awkward gift choice), and Devon splashes the cold water on him when he reveals he hasn’t been into it for a while (awkward-er way to receive a gift). As everybody digs into Christmas dinner, the argument over the gift reignites, and they end up addressing their broken relationship. I love that Don Mancini took the season finale to effectively make the show a family drama where a killer doll is running around in the background.
Lexy apologizes to her mother for seeing her as the sole source of her problems, and the two have a surprisingly tender moment where they both admit they made mistakes. At night, the Hackensack Gang also reconcile for letting themselves get lost in the Chucky sauce and, do I even have to say Jake and Devon reconcile again? This is like the tenth time this season.
Chucky, transferred into you-already-know-its-not-the-last Chucky doll, drops down the chimney with a Santa cap and the world’s quietest chainsaw. Riffing on “Twas the Night Before Christmas” inside as he munches on some cookies and milk as murder fuel, Tiffany arrives outside to get that Belle doll so she can finally transfer back into a plastic soul shell. When she breaks in, Mayor Cross catches a large Jennifer Tilly-shaped mouse stirring, and is enchanted by Tiffany long enough for Chucky to float down from the stairs like a Christmas fairy, bisecting Mayor Cross in the goriest kill of the season, and taking her off the naughty list permanently. Saving the best for last Mancini, I see you!
Tiffany and Chucky get into a verbal spat where he threatens G.G. for “misbehaving,” and Tiffany poises herself to protect the children upstairs. This leaves Chucky open for Lexy to jump down from the top rope—sorry, top of the stairs, and pin the doll. Fueled with rage, Lexy revs up the power tool and chops up seemingly the last Chucky with his chainsaw, while Tiffany runs upstairs and attempts a transfer into Belle. This only gets her a slash to the shoulder and back from Jake and Devon.
For a minute it seems like this is the end of Tiffany as the trio corners her, but if you noticed that I hadn’t mentioned Lexy’s little sister Caroline much in this episode, it’s because she only steps out here. Caroline then forces herself into a hostage situation with Tiffany holding a knife to her throat. She reveals that she’s been Chucky and Tiffany’s real daughter this whole time and has been stringing everyone along, a thought planted into her head by Chucky. Despite the trio’s protests, the sociopath in training flees with Tiffany and the Belle doll, leaving behind a heartbroken Lexy. The kids get taken into their former science teacher Ms. Fairchild’s care, which is good since she immediately believes them about Chucky. Time to get back to hunting Hackensack Gang!
In a 3-week flash forward, Tiffany hides in New York City wearing a very Selene Gallio outfit and being stared at by creepy Caroline. She gets a threatening call from Nica, who expresses her condolences but mentions that the hunt to torture her for everything she did is still on. Which doesn’t threaten Tiff much…until Nica mentions she can see her through a window. Panicking and trying to finalize the ritual to transfer her soul into the Belle doll, Voodoo for Dummies fails her. After all, we all know you can’t transfer your soul into a doll that already has one.
Standing up and wiping off his makeup, Chucky confirms that HE WAS IN THE BELLE DOLL THIS ENTIRE TIME, IN DISGUISE! He approaches Tiffany, ready for vengeance, as she screams. While we’re left to process our emotions, Chucky closes off with a song for the 22 deadly days of Christmas that confirms every kill in the season.
We’ve been playing checkers.
Chucky has been playing chess.
And Don Mancini has been playing fifth-dimensional mind games with everyone since 1988.
VISUAL HIGHLIGHTS: I wasn’t kidding when I said the big boss saved the best for last with the death of Mayor Michelle Cross. This is potentially the gnarliest kill of the franchise, just for how it’s framed and the absurd levels of gore involved. The fact that it’s followed up with Lexy turning Chucky’s face into cubed cheese with the same chainsaw shows that no matter what threshold you have in mind for how nasty you think Chucky can be as a slasher, chances are it’s not high enough.
PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHT: It’s not that I forgot to get everyone on the show presents this year, I just genuinely must give this to the whole ensemble of the Chucky cast. The tonal pivot of this episode and the way many of these characters’ storylines end up, both permanently and temporarily, just forced the whole cast to bring their A-game. From the sweet but not maudlin reunion of Jake and Devon to the parting of Tiffany and GG, down to even the simplest interactions between the entire gang, I don’t think there was an episode with better overall performances.
QUOTE OF THE EPISODE.
“I feel like…if the public were just reminded of all my charitable endeavors, that, perhaps, they would just make that silly murder charge go away!”
– Tiffany Valentine, on making the most of your charity this holiday season
OVERALL RATING: 9 (Chainsaw Induced Christmas Cleanups)/10. I’d say this is the overall score for the season. Was I less critical of this season in general than my season 1 reviews? Yes, most likely. When you serve up nothing but good television, I just have less to complain about. Learning from all of the mistakes of its previous season, the pacing was tightened up to perfection, and all the intrigue we got was given satisfying payoffs; “Chucky Actually” is the embodiment of all those improvements and the promises of another great season, wrapped up and set under the tree just in time for the holidays.
THE EXORCISM OF CHARLES LEE RAY: Chucky Season 2 Episode 7 “Goin’ to the Chapel” Recap & Review
Somewhere between science and superstition, there is another world, and in it…lies another perfect hour of television, and another excessively long recap!
The episode opens in a flashback stylized after Curse of Chucky, with Jake (and other key players throughout the episode) in a monochrome confessional booth opposite Father Bryce. While Jake and Nica wallow in self-hatred over being unable to stop Chucky, Andy confesses he’s worried he might lose all purpose if he destroys the doll and isn’t sure who he would be without the little redheaded menace. Glenda confesses that all they wanted was to know who their father was, and now that that trail has gone cold, they feel completely lost.
In the present, Mixter holds a gun on the kids in exchange for Good Chucky. Kyle arrives to stop Mixter, and the two have a standoff. Outnumbered, Mixter makes a deal with the crew: Bryce gets to destroy “Good” Chucky’s spirit in an exorcism, Nica gets to put Nica-Chucky into the doll, and Mixter walks free with this final iteration of Chucky, aka Chucky Prime.
On the road to the exorcism, Tiffany is caught at a diner by her own vanity and flees after being recognized by stray fans. She insists on taking control of the original Tiffany doll body and swapping with Tilly…but not before the car engine burns out, leaving Team Glen stranded in a parking lot. Soon after, a botched escape attempt by Tilly results in the actual real-life Jennifer Tilly dying, getting splattered in doll form by a truck, sending Tiffany into tears.
How many people with the voice of an angel do we have to lose this season?
As everyone prepares for Hurricane Divine Intervention, Lexy is at the end of her rope and has completely lost all her faith in Jake and Devon’s reassurances. She confronts them with the hard question of whether misery and death are the only things keeping the crew in one piece, and it’s not only an impressive performance by Alyvia Alyn-Lind, but it also brings into question the nature of their relationships in a significant way.
Lexy relapses and takes the temptation of Good Chucky fully, hearing Nadine’s voice before tearing down all her posters and seeing a hallucination of Nadine as an angel. In her last appearance of the season (maybe, there’s still a Christmas episode!) Nadine reassures Lexy that she and everyone else will be okay, and convinces her not to commit suicide by overdose. Sister Ruth, however, wakes the sleeping Lexy and takes her hostage.
Downstairs, Team Glenda officially expands to Team Incarnate Lord (including Jake, Devon, Dr. Mixter, Andy, Kyle, Nica Pierce, Glenda, Father Bryce, Sister Catherine, and DEAR LORD what is this, an Avenger’s line-up?), with all the characters finally united and playing off each other wonderfully. Father Bryce settles on going rogue following his excommunication from the church, you know, on account of telling the Vatican there’s a possessed doll running around. He even gets a cute suiting-up montage, so that’s how you know he’s serious.
It’s then that we get the biggest of all the flashback confessions, surprisingly coming from Father Bryce to Sister Ruth. He confesses that he’s struggled with his sexuality his entire life and has been externalizing some seriously internalized homophobia. Father Bryce made such a standout heel-face turn in such a short time, and it hurts that he really started to grow on me here. Why did it have to be so close to his inevitable death?!
Father Bryce begins the exorcism with the whole Chucky Survivor Support Group at his back, and following a chorus of “the power of Christ compels you” Father Karras style, Charles Lee Ray’s spirit is sent back to Hell!
…Sorry, did I say Hell? I meant directly into Father Bryce’s body, who he makes violently explode all over the chapel and its inhabitants.
What did we say? It was inevitable!
Following that grisly demise, Nica unveils a new, uncut Damballa chant, and finally rids herself of her father’s presence in her body and mind. A vengeful Jake begins drowning Chucky Prime in burning holy water, but Sister Ruth comes in with Lexy at gunpoint and forces him to give the doll up. Mixter runs, and before Ruth can turn this church to Jonestown, Glenda throw’s Chucky’s very own bowie knife into her eye and kills her. Andy catches up and blow’s Chucky’s jaw off with a few expertly placed shots, forcing Mixter to retreat. Andy finally gets to finish off his long-time nemesis. Temporarily at least, this little rascal will never die.
As Chucky’s final(-ish) doll body burns, the kids watch with worry. Andy and Kyle walk off into an uncertain future together, and we get a heartwarming flashback to the ending of Child’s Play 2. Nica shares a cigarette with Glenda and thanks them for the second chance at life. Tiffany and Glen arrive at the showdown late, and while the twins reunite, a wrathful Nica pulls a gun on Tiffany. Though Valentine begs her to spare the kids from having to see this, Nica takes the shot anyways, and Glen jumps in front of the bullet, trying to save their mother. Tiffany and Glenda drive off with Glen in hopes of saving them while Mixter rides off into the night.
Oh, and we see one last off-screen confession…at some point in the exorcism, Mixter became the true host of Chucky’s spirit, and everything went exactly according to her plan. So much for ending the season on a win.
PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHT: If Father Bryce had been played by anyone else this season (including Michael Theriault), I don’t think they could have pulled off the challenge Devon Sawa did in this episode. His confessional was heartfelt, and painfully explains so much about his character, granting magnitudes of unexpected depth. Though part of me wished this wasn’t all crammed into one episode, the emotional whammy his performance delivers is undeniable.
VISUAL HIGHLIGHT: All of the special effects in this episode stunned me. From Glenda’s insane knife throw to Father Bryce exploding out of nowhere, to Tilly getting turned into a jelly donut getting smashed at high speeds, this episode was a crunchy, wet, gore-filled special effects fest that would make Childs Play’s 1 through 3 blush with how wild we’ve gotten. But of course, the love has to go to the incredibly lifelike severed, post-explosion Bryce head.
QUOTE OF THE EPISODE:
“You think I’m scared to go to hell?! I’m from Jersey!”
– Chucky, on state pride
OVERALL RATING: 10 (Ooey Gooey Person/Doll Explosions)/10. With a classic scenario as the central set piece of the episode, homage’s-a-plenty to the most legendary horror film of all time, as well as an incredible closer for several characters, “Goin’ To The Chapel” is as close to a perfect episode as can be. From Father Bryce, to Lexy, to Nica, the episode is as much of an emotional thrill ride as it was a visual one. The only question left: how we’re going to top this level of quality, let alone insanity, in the finale?