Directed by: Katja von Garnier
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, Olivier Martinez, Katja Riemann, Bryan Dick
Anyone going to a PG-13 horror film called Blood and Chocolate thinking that it’s going to be good has serious reality issues. Still, I’m not sure that anyone could have possibly expected it to be as incredibly bad as it is.
I admit I’ve been out of sympathy with the werewolf movie ever since the archetype moved away from Henry Hull’s satanic monster in Werewolf of London (1935). I even preferred the irritable teddy bear-like creature of Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man (1941) and its sequels. The more wolf-like, lumbering—and almost invariably cartoonish (see Underworld (2003) or Van Helsing (2004))—horrors that have followed in their wake don’t do it for me. Yes, I’ll say it again: I’m all for the return of werewolves in trousers.
In the case of Blood and Chocolate and its lupine leading lady, I’d settle for werewolves in skirts, I guess. But this clunker doesn’t even offer us the cartoonish slobberers of CGI-dom. No, the folks this round just turn into wolves—despite an ancient stained-glass window in a church (!) that depicts humanoid wolves (not only in trousers, mind you, but sometimes in armor). This is about as exciting as a trip to a nature center. Oh, the idea’s not new. The Bela Lugosi character in The Wolf Man who puts the bite on Chaney is seen as a common garden variety wolf, and that’s all the werewolf ever is in the rather tepid Cry of the Werewolf (1944). Still, this approach is not terribly impressive. But this is the least of Blood and Chocolate‘s worries.
First of all, take the script (please) and its snicker-inducing title. In the context of the story, the title Blood and Chocolate makes a certain amount of sense, owing to the fact that Vivian (Agnes Bruckner, Peaceful Warrior) works for a chocolate shop in Bucharest. (If you’re expecting some kind of meat pie variant—a la Sweeney Todd—with blood being the secret ingredient in the chocolates, forget it,<#213>
cuz never the twain do meet.) Regardless, that doesn’t keep the title from sounding silly. Then again, the story is silly.
Vivian (wholly American, regardless of the fact that she was raised in Romania from the age of 5 or 6) is slated to be the next bride of the head werewolf, Gabriel (Olivier Martinez, Taking Lives). (I guess she’s supposed to fall for the leader of the pack.) She’s presumably to join him in the family absinthe business (I am not making this up). Unenthused by this prospect—not caring, it seems, for the way Gabriel dumped her Aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann, I Am the Other Woman) after making her his temporary queen of the werewolves—the young lady falls for American comic book artist Aiden (Hugh Dancy, Basic Instinct 2), whom she “meets cute” in a deserted church at three in the morning. Her family objects (if they’d had to sit through the romantic montage of the courtship the audience has to endure, they’d object even more). Low-grade—really low-grade—mayhem ensues.
I’ll overlook the clunky dialogue for the most part, though some record needs be made of the exchange between Aiden and sub-James Dean werewolf bad boy Rafe (Bryan Dick, Colour Me Kubrick) in the scene when Rafe advises our hero to take the first train out of Bucharest. Aiden refuses to take the train, prompting Rafe to start to transform, prompting Aiden to wuss out and whimper, “All right, I’ll take the train.” “Too late,” snarls Rafe, adding, “I am the train!” Wow!
Then there’s the direction by German filmmaker Katja von Garnier, which alternates between barely adequate and annoyingly gimmicked-up—and worse. The worse is the decision to portray the human-form wolves—especially Rafe’s sidekicks—like enthusiastic chorus boys in a production of West Side Story. They leap, they prance, they do everything but start singing, “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way,” and that might have helped. It certainly wouldn’t have made these chorus-boys-gone-bad any less menacing.
And what of the acting? Well, Ms. Bruckner and Mr. Dancy are dull, uninteresting and occasionally cloying. Olivier Martinez is not only campy, he continues to verge on the incomprehensible in his English-language performances. Here he manages to turn the apparent question, “Does she have a growing attraction for him?” into what sounds like “a groin attraction.” That may be apt enough, but I doubt it delivers the intended message. Then again, the movie is full of unanswered questions, like why is an absinthe factory in Romania named Brookwood? Why is Bucharest rife with English language newspapers and bookstalls? Do even the most upscale Bucharest interiors have peeling paint? And who thought this movie was a good idea? Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse.