Fans of Annette Curtis Klause’s best-selling “young adult” novel about a female werewolf and her romance with a normal human may not much care for this screen adaptation, which makes substantial alterations to the book. Non-fans won’t find much to like in it, either. On the screen, the combination of horror thriller and young love comes across as more than a mite ridiculous, especially when it’s executed as somberly as it is here.
In this telling, “Blood and Chocolate” isn’t much more than a thinly-rewritten retread of “An American Werewolf in Paris,” the inferior 1997 follow-up to John Landis’ 1981 “American Werewolf in London.” The big difference is that the spotlight isn’t so much on the American guy who travels to Europe but the girl he falls for when he gets there—who, of course, turns out to be a werewolf. She’s Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), who’s fled to Romania, where the movie was shot, from America after the death of her lupine family at the hands of “hunters”—i.e., bigots. In Bucharest she’s become part of the pack of loup garoux led by the handsome and feral Gabriel (Olivier Martinez) and including a gang of trouble-seekers headed by her cousin Rafe (Bryan Dick).
But Vivian’s relatively-secure world is altered with the arrival of Aiden (Hugh Darcy), a handsome graphic novelist who steals her heart, much to the distress of Rafe and his punk pals and of Gabriel, who has his eye on her himself. Will her natural inclination to feed on the fellow win out? Or will her attraction to the non-lycanthropic Aiden be strong enough to lead to a decision to leave the pack? If so, will they allow her to do so? And how will he react if she tells him the truth about her condition?
Klause’s book, which kept the action in the U.S. (the decision to it abroad presumably resulted from financial considerations, and in particular the fact that it’s a co-production with German backers—thus the German director), made choices in dealing with these issues that a reader might have disagreed with, but at least they were unusual ones. The script cobbled together by Ehren Kruger and Christopher Landon, on the other hand, is formulaic and predictable, particularly in the last reels. It might as well have been retitled “An American Werewolf in Bucharest”—though it must be said that Brendan Galvin’s dank cinematography does not flatter the city. Katja von Garnier’s stolid direction is a distinct drawback, too. She keeps everything slow, solemn and serious, apart from the few chase-and-battle sequences; and she certainly made a mistake dropping a romantic musical montage in the middle of the flick—it’s like “Love Story” meets “Dracula,” and comes across as almost sublimely ridiculous.
In these unpropitious circumstances, most of the cast provide little relief. The spindly Dancy is engaging enough, and handles his action chores decently, but Bruckner is waxen and wan; Vivian’s supposed to be gloomy and troubled, but Bruckner’s a stiff. And it’s sad to see Martinez, whose career started so promisingly with “The Horseman on the Roof” more than a decade ago, reduced to playing an oily villain like Gabriel, spouting clumsy speeches about the brutality of man and the nobility of his species in an accent so thick some of the words are actually unintelligible. The youngsters in Rafe’s gang, especially the preening, scenery-munching Dick, are suitably obnoxious—which one may take as what’s required, even if you find them odious. The transformation effects are pretty homely, but they at least avoid the gradual hair-spouting usual in such tales, and it’s kind of nice to see the werewolves portrayed again by handsome real animals—the way they were in “Wolfen” back in 1981.
But in the final analysis one has to wonder why producers keep optioning novels if they intend to change them so much the result is nearly unrecognizable. It’s possible that an intriguing film might have been made of “Blood and Chocolate.” But this isn’t it. For a werewolf movie, this is an awfully toothless, turgid effort.