Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blood and Chocolate

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The coolest thing about werewolf movies, and the secret to horror lovers' decades-long infatuation with them, is the transformation scene; that absolutely essential cinematic money shot when man becomes beast. However, in this willfully dull snooze-fest, man becomes lame lycanthrope by imitating Baryshnikov — pirouetting through the air, morphing into flashes of light and hitting ground as a wolf. But these wolves aren't the snarling, menacing creatures common to nightmares, they're more like cuddly house pets. Forget silver bullets; these pups could be dispatched with a rolled-up magazine or a scratch behind the ears. That's just one of many things amiss in Blood and Chocolate, a generally amateurish effort that fails to squeeze even modest excitement out of a fairly promising scenario.

Hugh Dancy plays Aidan, a factory-issue American hipster tourist, visiting Romania to research a graphic novel he's drawing about mysterious were-creatures called loup garoux. Luckily enough he stumbles into — and falls head-over-paws for — Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), a lovely but sulky candy maker with a hidden love of body hair and moonlit forest strolls. Soon she digs him too, but of course her supernatural family disapproves, especially moody uncle Gabriel (Oliver Martinez), the domineering pack leader. Predictable human-nonhuman tension ensues, sending the star-crossed lovers running in search of quality silverware to deflect frequent lupine attacks.

Made on the cheap with production values just above made-for-cable fare, the film isn't truly terrible, just a strangely inert and listless genre exercise.

Too bad the plot's similar to Underworld — everything's restrained, slightly aloof — but lacks the popcorn violence exhilaration and seedy thrill of Kate Beckinsale in tight leather trou. The flick's somewhat ethereal approach to recurring fright themes might work if they were even remotely frightening, or if the romance ever heated to a full boil. You might say it's the rare female perspective on fantasy, yet the love story is as tepid as the action, directed with airy indifference by Katja von Garnier (Iron Jawed Angels). Garnier doesn't even exploit the exotic location; aside from some gorgeous establishing shots of Bucharest, the action is mostly confined to grungy, dimly lit alleyways. At best, werewolves are a metaphor for our deepest animal desires, but halfway though this halfhearted yawner, this beast inside was longing to sniff a path to the nearest exit.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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