Blood & Chocolate (2007)
By: Craig Villinger on June 28, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Sony Pictures (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced + 4:3. English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1. English, Spanish, French Subtitles. 98 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Katja Von Garnier
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Olivier Martinez, Hugh Dancy, Katja Riemann
Screenplay: Ehren Kruger, Christopher Landon
Music: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek
Tagline: Temptation comes in many forms.
Country: USA
Now I'm keen to see a good werewolf movie as much as anyone, but really, a title like Blood & Chocolate doesn't exactly get one primed for a savage dose of lycanthropic entertainment. The blood part is ok – after all, every good horror movie should have at least a few drops of the red stuff, but chocolate? Doesn't exactly conjure up the proper pre-viewing mental images as you snuggle your arse into the lounge chair does it? So future filmmakers please take note – when titling your horror pictures, blood is a good word to use. Chocolate is...not so good.

After being hunted almost to the point of extinction by trigger happy humans, the last of the loup-garous (or Werewolves as you and I might call them) have banded together in Bucharest where their pack has managed to blend in with society by following a strict set of rules. They kill only during specially arranged hunts to avoid unwanted attention, they never reveal their true identities to anyone, and oh – there is also this pretty neat rule which says the pack leader must choose a new bride every seven years. Not sure how that helps them survive as a group, but yay for him nonetheless. With his currents squeeze's use-by date fast approaching, alpha male Gabriel (Olivier Martinez) is keen to make tasty young American Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) his new bride, but Vivian doesn't care much for the time-honoured pack behaviour and isn't shy about expressing her distain for the whole "pick-a-mate" set-up. To make matters worse, Vivian goes and gets herself smitten with homo sapien Aiden, a graphic novelist in Bucharest to seek inspiration for his latest work, and of course the pack frowns upon this unnatural coupling – Gabriel in particular as he had dibs on her. As hostilities escalate and an attempt is made on Aiden's life, Vivian must choose between her old pack, and her new object of affection.

Blood & Chocolate is based on the "Young Adult" novel by Annette Curtis Klause. Now I'm not exactly up to speed with my literary lingo, but I'm assuming "Young Adult" is only one or two steps up from "Children's", and while this film version of Blood & Chocolate (adapted by Scream 3 and The Ring screenwriter Ehren Kruger along with Christopher Landon) apparently makes a lot of changes to the source material, the target audience clearly remains the same. You won't find any furry beasties ripping chunks out of naked young ladies here – Blood & Chocolate is US PG-13 all the way, and hardcore wolf action if mostly pushed aside in favour of sappy romantic set pieces. It's hardly a traditional werewolf movie in other areas too - for starters, when in wolf form the werewolves actually looks like regular old wolves - not giant hairy man/wolf hybrids - which lessens their ability to scare (some of them actually look kinda cute and cuddly) and the transformations from man to wolf are a quick, almost magical process with glowing light and graceful morphing, rather than a protracted and painful re-assembly of body parts ala American Werewolf in London.

I rate Agnes Bruckner pretty high on the spunk-ometer and have been a fan of her past genre work – particularly her role in the otherwise boring The Woods - but here she just seemed… disinterested. In fact, pretty much every actor seemed to just mope around and deliver their lines in dull monotone, with nary a smile to be seen throughout the whole picture. On the other hand, Hugh Dancy, as the human love interest, was one of the few people with any discernable enthusiasm, but as a couple I just didn't find he and Agnes likeable and didn't care if their relationship blossomed or crashed and burned, which meant I wasn't hooked by the films central premise. The villains also weren't very likeable, or villainish for that matter, and were obviously chosen more for their manicured looks rather than their abilities.

At the very least Director Katja von Garnier has made a visually stunning feature, which feels a lot like a Renny Harlin production. You know – style over substance. Everything in this film, from the wardrobe to the picture postcard shots of the Romanian locations, seems to have been chosen carefully, and many sweeping overhead shots of wolves running freely through the forest as they hunt their prey were well staged. And speaking of wolves, I'll also give the filmmakers credit for using actual flesh and blood wolfies for most of the film instead of resorting to dreadful CGI.

Overall, Blood & Chocolate is a hard film to summarise. It kept me entertained with its slick visuals and I certainly didn't mind looking at Agnus Bruckner for 90 odd minutes, but the pace is slow, the acting and scripting is uninspired, and if you stripped away the gloss you'd have little more than yet another new fangled variation of the old Romeo and Juliet tale. The fact that it is Romeo and Juliet with werewolves doesn't even make it any more original as Underworld did the same thing three years ago – and that also had the added bonus of vampires and gunfights to keep us amused!

Blood & Chocolate isn't so much a bad film, but it's not a good horror film, and that's what it was marketed as. Genre fans won't like the schmaltz, and everyone else probably won't like the wolves.
Video
The disc gives us the option of viewing Blood & Chocolate cropped (4:3) or in its original 2:35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. Naturally, since I don't have some sort of alien parasite attached to my brain that makes we want to watch awful pan & scan presentations I chose the anamorphic widescreen option, and overall, it can't be faulted. Crisp, clear images from start to finish enhance the picturesque Romanian architecture, and while the colour scheme seemed a little dull, that was no doubt a deliberate aesthetic choice.
Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track gives us nothing to complain about, but it's hardly spectacular. Audio is clean and easy to understand, but the sound mostly comes at you from the front speakers.
Extra Features
Director Katja Von Garnier and Olivier Martinez provide a dry, and sometimes boring audio commentary which does offer a few behind the scenes insights but also features a lot of pointless observations and a few extended moments of silence. The only other significant extra is an 11 minute collection of deleted scenes, but these are mostly just scenes that are already in the film with a few extra seconds added to them.

A trio of trailers for other Sony releases concludes the selection, including one for Renny Harlin's The Covenant, which is a suitable companion to Blood & chocolate.
The Verdict
Blood & Chocolate was a huge disappointment at the US box office, taking in just three and a half million dollars before being rushed on to DVD shelves. Could this mean less PG-13 horror and more hard R rated material for fans? Probably not, but it's a pleasant thought. The film certainly looks good, but while it does contain horror elements, it was clearly not made for horror fans. Take this in to account before purchasing.
Movie Score
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