Blood and Chocolate

Blood and Chocolate’s name doesn’t mean anything. There’s a throwaway line in the film which tries to tie it in, but the name Blood and Chocolate is exactly what it appears to be: A really bad title. The movie isn’t about blood or chocolate, it’s about a young female werewolf named Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) bucking against the traditions of her werewolf clan and rebelling by crushing on a human male. When human teenagers rebel, the result is usually underage binge drinking. When werewolves rail against their elders, the result is bloodshed. They are wolves after all.

What makes the thing interesting to me is that the clan leaders Agnes is fighting against aren’t bad guys. The head of the wolf pack is a werewolf named Gabriel, who does what he does to keep his people safe. He’s a mostly moral character, and by putting him at odds with Vivian Blood and Chocolate creates a kind of complexity that’s usually absent in the standard werewolf/vampire/insert-creature-here romance movie. I mean in Underworld it’s pretty clear whose side you should be on. That’s not the case here. Vivian is kind of a snot, and her willful disobedience causes a lot of trouble and misery for her mostly guiltless werewolf clan. Those who aren’t guiltless get theirs early on in the film, leaving a secret society that’s just trying to survive and mind their own damn business.

I liked some of the look of the film too. I’m a total sucker for old world European architecture, and by setting itself in Romania Blood and Chocolate has plenty of that. The werewolves hang out in old buildings and churches, skulking around in shadows. Because they didn’t have much of a budget, there’s not much of a temptation to amp everything up with CGI. The movie isn’t flashy, but it does look fairly real. The flipside of this is that the actual werewolf stuff is pretty pedestrian. The transformation effects used are basically just a bunch of light and smoke, and in their wolf form the were-people turn into normal, scraggily looking wolves. The action isn't much better. Some of it is downright ponderous. If you’re expecting a horror movie or a high-octane action movie, forget it. This just isn’t that kind of film.

The movie has more in common with Romeo and Juliet than it does with those old Universal monster movies. The only problem there is that the romance between Vivian and her human friend Aiden just isn’t that believable. There’s no reason to buy into her caring about him. He just shows up one day. She barely knows him. What’s the deal? Aiden at least shows some sense when he figures out her secret. He freaks out and tries to get the hell out of there. I liked that, about time one of these movies had someone with some sense in it. But sadly that’s quickly washed away since, without a romance there is no movie.

Blood and Chocolate is better than it has any right to be. The werewolf thing has really been done to death, and even mixing a love story into it doesn’t add anything new to the genre. Director Katja von Garnier’s film isn’t particularly fresh, but it is fairly well executed. Maybe some of it is cliché and sometimes it seems like it ought to be about vampires instead of werewolves, but the script by Ehren Kruger and Christophe Landon is at least free from the half-baked excesses of sniveling, unrealistic, CGI villains pitted against all too perfect heroes. There’s enough moral ambiguity in this human/werewolf romance to give it the depth necessary to keep the film from falling completely flat.

Josh Tyler