Blood and Chocolate

Ealasaid/ January 29, 2007/ Movie Reviews and Features, Writing

Directed by: Katja von Garnier
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, Olivier Martinez
Rated: PG-13 for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse.
Parental Notes: This is a fair PG-13 movie. The substance abuse consists of drinking absinthe. The violence is not overly graphic (you can tell what is happening, but it’s not gratuitous).

I wanted to like “Blood and Chocolate,” I really did. It had a number of things in its favor: cheesy werewolf story, beautiful location shoots, attractive principals, and so on. But I just couldn’t. I tried, honestly, but the passive heroine, bad acting, and utter lack of camp made it impossible. It isn’t a good action movie, and it isn’t a good horror movie; it isn’t even an enjoyably terrible movie. It’s just not good.
The story is a fairly straightforward coming-of-age tale, loosely based on the young adult novel by Annette Curtis Klause. Nineteen-year-old Vivian (Agnes Bruckner, “Dreamland”) is a werewolf. Her parents were killed by hunters when she was little, and she has since moved to Bucharest, where she lives with distant relatives as part of a pack of werewolves led by Gabriel (Olivier Martinez, “Taking Lives”). Every seven years, Gabriel takes a new wife, and word has it that he’s thinking of Vivian for his next choice in spite of her unwillingness and the difference in their ages. She’s even less enthusiastic about the idea when she meets Aidan (Hugh Dancy, “Elizabeth I”), an artist. They fall in love and she has to figure out which to choose: life with the human Aidan or life with her pack at Gabriel’s side. Things are complicated by the fact that she is apparently destined to be the leader of her people, ushering in a “new age of hope.”
All this would be fine and good if either Bruckner offered a decent performance or the part were written well. As written, Vivian is an utterly passive character. She only makes decisions when pushed to by Gabriel or Aidan, and generally sides with whoever is in front of her at the time. On the rare occasions when she actually makes her mind up for herself, she does so at the very last possible minute. A solid actress could pull this off, but Bruckner (or possibly director Katja von Garnier) seems to think that standing around with no expression on her face counts as acting. Her rare moments of expressiveness are limited to laughing during a montage and looking ill with the assistance of some skillfully-applied makeup. It is hard to empathize with a character who doesn’t show much emotion through either expression or action.
The rest of the film is packed with equally mediocre talent and badly-written characters. The one aspect of the film I greatly enjoyed was the beautiful transformations the werewolves go through. Humans leap into the air in graceful arcs, are surrounded in luminescent rainbow-tinted fog, and land as wolves, trailing streaks of color. It’s quite lovely, and a pleasant change from the bone-cracking and hair-sprouting of so many other werewolf movies. If only that were enough to make up for the rest of the film’s deficits.
When a horror movie is not good, sometimes being campy and over-the-top can save it. Sadly, “Blood and Chocolate” lacks even a whiff of camp, and with a heroine who shows almost no emotion, you can’t have much over-the-top. If you’re so desperate for a werewolf movie on the big screen that you don’t much care about quality, “Blood and Chocolate” will satisfy — the werewolf aspect of the story is pretty spiffy. But if you like your shape changers with character and want to be entertained, go elsewhere.

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