I'm a big admirer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so when I heard that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness would be the first "horror" picture in the franchise, I was excited to see what director Sam Raimi had in store. And the outcome was ... mixed.
After multiple viewings of the film, I noticed that there were some scenes that stood out as particularly effective horror elements—and others that didn't. Here are three moments that worked and three that were a little too obvious.
Worked: Creative Deaths
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had some freakishly horrible deaths.
I was so excited to watch Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) tear people to shreds in this film with her powers as someone who loves everything harsh in Marvel—I am a huge Deadpool fan—I wasn't expecting to see somebody ripped to shreds. I'm looking at you, John Krasinki's Reed Richards.
From Black Bolt's (Anson Mount) head explosion to Reed Richards being torn into spaghetti strands to Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell) being physically split in half, these deaths as a horror lover left me speechless. I came to witness this darker side of Marvel that we hadn't seen before, and I was excited to see more.
That scene in which Wanda transforms into a monster and snaps Charles Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) neck ... oh yeah, that got me good.
Didn’t Work: Pointless Characters
But, while the fatalities in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness were cool, I didn't enjoy how these characters were brought in and then died a few minutes later.
I didn't expect all of these cameos to survive. In all honesty, I expected more people to die in this movie than really occurred. I'm almost pleased they limited it to the amount in the movie. I'm more disappointed in the MCU's (or, at the very least, in this film's) potential for these characters.
It's almost the polar opposite of Spider-Man: No Way Home. Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield were believed to only appear in a cameo, but they ended up playing major roles in the film, making it even more enjoyable for fans. I simply wish the members of the Illuminati had done more before they were killed; it would have made their deaths in a pseudo horror film that much more powerful.
That was gloomy in the best manner, and I really enjoyed it.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness delves into the darker side of Marvel, demonstrating that some forms of magic are dangerous, and the dream-walking component of the film is particularly impressive. Wanda terrifyingly puppeteered another version of herself without her consent in order to kill everyone in another dimension.
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) physically puppeteered a corpse of himself, to the point where the Souls of the Damned came up from hell to literally stop him, creating a spooktacular scenario that had me smiling the entire time. Who'd have guessed that a zombie Doctor Strange could be so frightening?
Didn’t Work: Petty Jump Scares
I mean, come on.
Of course, jump scares are expected in a "horror" picture, but as I mentioned in the last section, horror has evolved significantly.
We live in an age where we don't need jump scares to be afraid; instead, offer us unsettling images of distant people and weird flower crowns that appear to be moving, or a low rumble of music that builds up to an ultimate reveal - not frivolous jump scares.
The one part of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that really grabbed me was when Wanda killed Charles Xavier. I knew it was coming, but Wanda's expression was the one that worried me the most. The rest seemed ill-conceived and thrown in for cheap scares.
Worked: Wanda as the Ultimate Villain
I am here for her villain era.
Wanda's incredible abilities and badass actions have always had my full support. People have long undervalued her since she has never had the spotlight on her abilities until WandaVision arrived in 2021. People have now seen what the Scarlet Witch is capable of. She's also terrifying.
First and foremost, Elizabeth Olsen has played some incredible roles, but nothing compares to her performance in this film. She was a fantastic villain who terrified me to death. She was one of the most epic villains since Thanos himself, from getting into a sorcerer's mind and whispering "run" to them, to tearing apart the Illuminati and every single person she killed in order to find her children.
While the Scarlet Witch's alleged fate by Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness conclusion foreshadowed doom for her, I don't think we'll see her again. Before she signs out for good, I need to hear her speak the iconic remark, "No more mutants." I'd like to see more of her work as a horror villain.
Perhaps now, with the success of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, additional MCU films with greater horror elements will emerge, and we'll see an R-rated horror superhero film 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.