Review: “Blood and Chocolate”

Sour candy lies at the heart of this sweet treat, a rather tame and unimaginative blend of gothic romance meets “Underworld” style action fantasy. “Blood and Chocolate” is one of those runaway productions that’s shot in Bucharest to cut down on costs. The difference is this time they decided to stop pretending the location is a generic American metropolis and opted to fit the Romanian locale into the story.

Does it make a difference in the end? Sure the buildings are pretty, and locations vary between ornate churches and rave parties in every underground hallway available. However these stylistic touches (absinthe instead of beer for example) are in the end mere distractions from the lacklustre story which has been defanged from Annette Curtis Klause’s darker and more sexual teen novel.

What’s left is your standard tale of a cute geek who meets a depressed girl wolf and they hit it off thanks to his lucky knowledge of all things lupin. Wolf pack doesn’t like boy, especially the leader – a Latino hunk (a disappoint Olivier Martinez) who is both the girl’s uncle and betrothed. When boy takes out the rather hammy over the top heir to the bloodline, the wolves want him gone. Girl and boy, after mistakenly fighting and nearly killing each other, team up to defend their love. The end.

Taking over 90 minutes to get that point is a tedious process. With the teen girl market firmly in the film’s sights as its target audience, the lack of any real action or horror will turn away much of the male audience in droves. Even young girls won’t respond much to it thanks to the decently cute puppy love scenes early on devolving into depressive exposition and cheesy melodrama in the second half.

Katja von Garnier directs the film with a music video sensibility – loud blaring metal music, ill-edited montages, odd visuals that focus on little decorative and motif touches to try and look edgy or deep, and a quick bit of anti-cinematic werewolf lore that makes changes to the creatures to suit the budget. Most notable of these is that werewolves aren’t animatronic or CG monsters but simply real timber wolves which end up looking more cute than threatening.

She isn’t helped by the cast. Bruckner and Dancy make handsome leads but she is so unrelentingly sullen and he so unoriginally drawn that we simply don’t care about these characters or their fates – despite a likable low boil chemistry between the actors that struggles to overcome the lumpy script. Supporting actors are assorted pale East Europeans with many of the wolf extras looking like stand-ins from an Abercrombie shoot (no wonder they disrobe several times throughout).

There’s a vague notion here of an attempt to do something more adult, mythical and mature with werewolf lore than the usual blood-soaked horror or mythology-heavy action approaches that have been done in the past. Yet it’s all lost in a sea of poor filmmaking, weak acting and cliched storytelling. There’s little in the way of either blood or chocolate here, which makes for an unappetizing mouthful.