by Mel Valentin
Directed by Katja von Garnier ("Bandits") from a screenplay by Ehren Kruger ("The Skeleton Key," "The Ring," "The Ring Two," "The Brothers Grimm") and Christopher Landon and adapted from Annette Curtis Klause's young adult novel is billed as the latest film “from the producers of 'Underworld.'” Unfortunately, "Blood & Chocolate" is an awkward, haphazard mix of romance and horror , heavy on romantic melodrama and light on the horror. Throw in a bleak Central European setting, risible dialogue, a banal storyline, and a cast of relative unknowns likely to remain that way, and it becomes obvious why "Blood & Chocolate" was dumped by a studio desperate to recoup some of its expenditures before it hits DVD and cable in a few months time.Bucharest, Romania, the present. Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) lives with her aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann). Vivian may look human, but she's not. She's a member of an ancient race of shapeshifters, the loup garoux. The loup garoux all share the same abilities: they're stronger, faster, and more agile than humans. They can also shapeshift into wolves whenever they desire (and not, as werewolf legends suggest, only during the full moon) Exiles all, the remaining loup garoux have gathered in Bucharest under Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), the de facto leader. Following tradition, the leader picks a new mate every seven years. Gabriel, of course, has his eye on Vivian. Gabriel’s heir by Astrid, the impetuous Rafe (Bryan Dick), is eager to take leadership over the loup garoux.
"Yes, it's as ludicrous and unscary as the title suggests."
Aiden (Hugh Dancy), an American illustrator and writer, scours Bucharest’s museums and churches hoping to find inspiration for his next project. Aiden has heard about the loup garoux, but considers them fanciful superstition, fodder for his next project. One night, Aiden and Vivian meet inside a church. Aiden has slipped in to the church to sketch the statues and stained glass window; Vivian has slipped in to escape her family. Aiden and Vivian are almost immediately attracted to one another, but Vivian’s secret keeps her from pursuing their attraction further. It’s also obvious, of course, that Vivian’s family/pack won’t approve of her romantic relationship with Aiden (humans are referred to as “meat” or, in Aiden’s case, “meat-boy”).
Unfortunately, passably entertaining werewolf flicks don’t come around too often. Most werewolf flicks are either mediocre, forgettable, or both. From recent entries in the sub-genre, only the blackly comic, gratuitously gory Dog Soldiers (Scottish soldiers, a pack of werewolves, and an isolated farmhouse) and the Ginger Snaps series are worth mentioning, let alone seeing. Ginger Snaps mixed Heathers-style teen angst with blood-splattered, lycanthropic excess (and yes, that was/is a good thing). Since then, though, the werewolf sub-genre has lain dormant, with the occasional effort, e.g. Wes Craven’s teen-oriented Cursed, proving that mediocrity is the norm when it comes to the sub-genre.
For Blood & Chocolate (yes, it’s a ridiculous title, but it’s actually a phrase lifted from Nobel Prize-winning author Herman Hesse’s novel, Steppenwolf, to add literary gravitas where, frankly, there is none), the tone, feel, and story elements can be described, none too kindly, as “West Side Werewolves.” Not surprisingly, Annette Curtis Klause’s novel centered on teenage characters caught in a banal Romeo and Juliet-style conflict that we’ve already seen in the slightly above-par Underworld flicks. Von Garnier’s adaptation upgrades the characters' respective ages, from teenagers to their early twenties, and shifts the setting from the United States to Bucharest, Romania (for budgetary reasons, obviously), but that adds nothing to a woefully derivative screenplay.Diehard horror fans with a preference for grue with their shocks will be sorely disappointed with "Blood & Chocolate." "Blood & Chocolate" is PG-13. There’s little blood, practically no gore, and most of the violence is pushed offscreen. It gets worse. Even the transformation scenes are lamely handled. The loup garoux’s eyes turn yellow, they growl, run, jump into the air, turn into a blur, and land on all fours. A blur later and they’re transformed into wolves (not, alas, werewolves). While a PG-13 rating makes financial sense, at least for a film’s producers hoping to recoup their investment, it’s also likely to turn off diehard horror fans. As it is, only supernatural ghost stories (like Kruger's remake of "The Ring" or, to a lesser extent, the remake of "Dark Water") have managed to squeeze in a handful of tense, suspenseful scenes and jump scares to satisfy horror fans and non-fans alike. "Blood & Chocolate" doesn’t come close in providing either one.
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originally posted: 01/26/07 19:54:05