Blood And Chocolate is a werewolf love story with no bite and not much romance. Based on the popular American teen novel by British-born author Annette Curtis Klause, the Lakeshore Entertainment production may find an initial audience in the younger female demographic that has kept the book in demand for almost a decade. But with little to offer in the way of star power, special effects, sex or gore, this surprisingly tame fantasy thriller will have a hard time scaring up a wider crowd.
With MGM distributing, the film got a 1,200-print release - with a PG-13 rating - in the crowded North American marketplace this weekend. Ads note that the project comes 'from the producers of Underworld' but the eventual domestic take seems likely to fall well short of the $52m achieved by Lakeshore's much raunchier vampires-vs-werewolves saga.
Prospects may not be much better in international markets, where independent distributors will start releasing in February. The film's multi-national cast and crew and European locations might, however, create a little extra interest.
In the radically reshaped movie version of the book, scripted by Ehren Kruger (The Ring) and Christopher Landon (Ice Cold In Alex), Vivian (Bruckner) is an American-born werewolf - or 'loup garoux', as the film likes to call them-- living in Bucharest. By day she works in a chocolate shop and by night she hangs out, rather reluctantly, with the other members of her clandestine pack.
Without revealing her secret, Vivian falls for Aiden (Dancy), an American comic-book writer doing research in the city. But the affair incurs the wrath of her werewolf cousin Rafe (Dick) and pack leader Gabriel (Martinez), who plans to make Vivian his next bride.
At first, German director Katja von Garnier (best known for her 1997 German-language film Bandits) goes for mood rather than action, introducing Vivian and her ilk as a band of posing night clubbers who occasionally gather in the woods to hunt a specially chosen human victim. The romance with Aiden gets going in a corny montage sequence before the film turns, in its final act, into a slightly more lively action thriller.
Though there's a hint of eroticism in some early scenes, the love affair ends up being oddly chaste. And neither of the lead performances conveys the suppressed desire that figured in the book. As Vivian, Bruckner (from Blue Car and The Wood) is impassive to the point of blankness. As Aiden, British up-and-comer Dancy (from Shooting Dogs and TV's Elizabeth I) is too wholesome to be of much narrative interest. French star Martinez (from Unfaithful) mostly gets by on his wolfish good looks.
Whether for creative or budgetary reasons special effects are very thin on the ground. The werewolves go from human to wolf state with just a flash of effects work and, once transformed, are depicted as real wolves rather than as elaborate CG monsters.
When they do go after a human the wolves get the job done without too much mess. The absence of gore may have been necessary to secure an inclusive rating but it's likely to irk many horror fans.
The film does, though, make heavy use of its Romanian locations. The dark streets, gloomy churches and grand buildings of Bucharest are nicely photographed, even if the film occasionally seems to be just filling time with shots of the city's gothic sights.