4 Ways Doctor Strange 2 Worked As A Horror Film And 3 Ways It Didn't
Did Sam Raimi succeed in his horror ambitions?
I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a huge fan of some of the best horror movies. Seriously. I grew up watching them with my mom, and now as an adult, it’s become one of my favorite genres to watch, from the best A24 horror films to some of the older scary movies.
I’m also a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so when I heard that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was going to be marketed as the first MCU “horror” film, I was eager to see exactly what director Sam Raimi was going to bring to the table. And the result was…a mixed bag.
After several re-watches of the film, I realized there were moments that stood out amongst the rest as awesome horror aspects - and some that really didn’t work at all. Here are four moments that did work, and three others that felt a little too on the nose.
Worked: The Character Deaths Were Super Creative
Good lord those deaths were freaking brutal in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
As someone who loves anything brutal in Marvel - I am a huge Deadpool fan afterall - I was so excited to see Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) tear people to shreds in this film with her powers. I didn’t expect to actually see people get torn to shreds - looking at you, John Krasinki’s version of Reed Richards.
From Black Bolt’s (Anson Mount) head explosion to Reed Richards getting torn into pieces of spaghetti to Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) literally getting chopped in half, I was stunned watching these deaths and absolutely loved them as a horror fan. I was here for this darker version of Marvel that we've never quite seen before, and was eager to see more.
I mean, that one scene with Wanda in a monster form, when she snaps Charles Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) neck - ooh boy, that got me good.
Didn’t Work: Bringing In Characters Just For Them To Die
But, even if those deaths were really cool in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I didn’t like that these characters were literally just brought in to die a couple minutes later.
It’s not like I was expecting all these camoes to live. In all honesty, I thought more people were going to die in this film than who actually did. I’m almost glad they capped it at the amount that was in the film. I think I’m more disappointed in the potential that these characters could have had in the MCU - or, at the very least, in this film.
It’s sort of like the opposite of a Spider-Man: No Way Home thing. Both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield were rumored to just make a cameo, but they ended up being a huge part of the film, making it even better for fans to enjoy. I just wish the Illuminati members had done more before they were killed, is all - it would have made their deaths that much more powerful in a supposed horror film.
Worked: The Dream-Walking Aspect
Yeah, that was dark in the best way and I loved it.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness really explored the darker side of Marvel, showing that there are certain kinds of magic that seriously aren't okay, and the dream-walking aspect of this film really was done so well. Wanda literally puppeteering another version of her without her consent in order to kill everyone in another universe was terrifying.
What made this aspect even better is that the avatar doesn’t even need to be alive - Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) literally puppeteered a corpse of himself, so much so that the Souls of the Damned came up from hell to literally try and stop him, creating a spooktacular scene that had me smiling the whole way through. Who knew that zombie Doctor Strange could be so terrifying?
Didn’t Work: The Zoom-In Shots
Nope. Can’t stand them, even in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
I know that the zoom-in shot is an essential Sam Raimi quirk. He does it in many of his films - including an essential scene in Spider-Man 2 when Doc Ock kills everyone. But, I don’t know, it felt way too cheesy for a Marvel movie now.
I feel like, back in 2002 or before, that kind of stuff would work really well, but horror, as a genre, has evolved so much since then, and just zooming in on people’s faces doesn’t really work as well in building suspense. We can see their facial expressions from a mile away. We don’t need to make out every individualized freckle on their faces.
Worked: Most Of Danny Elfman’s Score
When Danny Elfman was added as the composer to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I was so excited. He and Sam Raimi have worked together on several films, and I knew that if there was someone who could bring us a superhero soundtrack with some horror elements, it would be him.
And damn, did he deliver and more.
I could go on for hours about the music in this film feeling perfectly done, creating suspense that would lead into some of these scenes, and the original score during the emotionally impactful scenes, such as when Wanda’s other version says her children will be loved - ugh, so many amazing musical moments.
One that stands out to me in particular is that scene where the two versions of Doctor Strange fight each other with literal music notes - you can feel the Elfman composition, and how much effort he put into creating this perfect score for this ultimate horror fight scene. So creatively well done.
The only thing I’d say didn’t work for me with Danny Elfman’s score was that occasionally, the music would feel a little too loud in certain scenes. But, that could just be because of the theater I was in. Overall, as a score, it worked incredibly well with the MCU horror film.
Didn’t Work: Petty Jumpscares
I mean, come on.
Of course, I know jump scares are expected in a supposed “horror” film, but as I said in a previous section - horror has changed so much.
We live in an age where we don’t need jumpscares to get us scared - give us uneasy shots of people in the distance and strange flower crowns that look to be moving, or a low rumble of music that builds up in an ultimate reveal - not silly jumpscares.
The only one that really got me in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was when Wanda killed Charles Xavier. I knew it was coming, but I think Wanda’s face was the moment that actually made me scared. Every other one felt ill-conceived and thrown in there for cheap scares - sorry not sorry.
Worked: Using Wanda As The Ultimate Villain
I am here for her villain era.
I have always been a huge supporter of Wanda’s amazing powers and her badass moments. For so long, people always underestimated her, as she never really had the spotlight on her powers until WandaVision came along back in 2021. But now, people have seen what the Scarlet Witch can do. And she is scary.
First off, Elizabeth Olsen has some amazing roles, but nothing compares to her acting in this. She was fantastic as a villain, and truly terrified me. From her breaking into the mind of a sorcerer and whispering “run” to them, to her tearing apart the Illuminati, and every single person she killed in order to just find her children - she was one of the most epic villains since Thanos himself.
While her supposed fate by the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ending spelled trouble for her, I don’t think this will be the last we see of the Scarlet Witch. I need to hear her utter that famous line, “No more mutants,” before she signs out of this world for good. She was fantastic as a horror villain and I need to see more.
Maybe now, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness doing so well, it might open the doors for more MCU films to step into the light with more horror aspects, and perhaps we’ll get an R-rated horror superhero movie one day.
For now, I can at least see that Sam Raimi definitely put in some work to make this film scary - even if it did feel like a PG-13 horror flick. No matter what, though, it was still a lot of fun.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!
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