During the first chunk of the werewolf thriller Blood and Chocolate, I was intrigued with the notion that I was watching a more realistic, grounded version of Underworld. By the time the characters whipped out guns during the final stretch, I realized I was actually watching the low-budget version of Underworld, and, frankly, I'd rather be watching Underworld: Evolution or Blade: Trinity or Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning. This is the type of movie that looks like it was set and filmed in Romania to save money, and then filmed on cheap sets anyway, to save even more money.
The movie is stealthy the way it begins by camouflaging those budgetary weaknesses. Like Underworld, it's about a supernatural society living beneath the surface of our own, governed by its own ancient rules (unlike the Underworld series, they can only afford werewolves, not vampires). Rather than wasting time with endless special-effects transformation scenes, the werepeople here just sort of leap and blur, hitting the ground as actual wolves -- not the steroidal, rubbery-looking CGI creatures of recent years. This is appropriate for a more human, character-driven horror fantasy, and Blood and Chocolate aspires to explore the line between animal and beast. Article continues below
But the more we see of these werewolves, the more we notice that they come in two flavors: conflicted moping (played by Agnes Bruckner
) and fey Eurotrash (played by everyone else). And the more we see of that mystical transformation process, the more the wolves look ready to jump onto the cover of a Lisa Frank Trapper-Keeper. This realization coincides with the movie crossing the line into hilarity. From about the halfway point, there's no turning back; a character in deathly need of a river, for example, will stumble across a stream and exclaim aloud: "Streams lead to rivers!"
Pity him, the one major non-werewolf character: Aiden (Hugh Dancy
), a young comic book artist working in Bucharest who pursues the taciturn Vivian (Bruckner), the only werewolf without a major superiority complex over the rest of humanity (though she's held back in life by a sort of werewolf survivor guilt). She works in a chocolate shop, which somehow manages to inspire the titular line.
Bruckner has demonstrated her talent in other films, but here she parts her lips, sticks out her teeth, and pretty much calls it a day. She just doesn't have anything else to work with; what the screenplay considers character and plot is really more of a situation: werewolf girl hates arcane werewolf society, then meets boy who points this out to her. Yes, it's yet another genre picture that heartily stumps for the concept of free will as it adheres to formulas with unwavering dedication.
Though it's fun to spot the low-budget seams, what the movie lacks could've been generated on the cheap: sexiness and suspense. Even when it turns campy, Blood and Chocolate isn't tawdry or self-aware. Give the film some credit, though: Just when it starts to get boring, it veers off into ridiculousness, playing fast and loose with its own werewolf rules and pulling plenty of hilarious editing-room punches during the important fights. I've seen a lot of cruddy horror movies recently, and this is the first one in awhile that isn't dead boring. At the same time, it's difficult to avoid pangs of international jealousy; in other countries, superior werewolf movies like Dog Soldiers and Ginger Snaps get theatrical releases. Here in the U.S., we're left with some laugh-out-loud silliness and a brief period of wondering what the hell blood, chocolate, and werewolves have to do with each other. Or anything.