Let me preface by stating that I grade my movies against their genre peers, not across the board. Ten stars for a Fellini film and 10 for BLOOD & CHOCOLATE translate into two different animals. For a modestly budgeted, PG-13 supernatural thriller, B&C ranks high in its class.
That is not to diminish the directorial skills of Katja von Garnier, who also directed the quirkily charming, award-winning BANDITS. Thanks to her very capable hand, BLOOD & CHOCOLATE joins the ranks of recent memorable movies (THE HOWLING, WOLFEN, GINGER SNAPS, American WEREWOLF, CURSED) in a generally anemic sub-genre.
BLOOD & CHOCOLATE is less of a horror film (splatter addicts will hate its lack of gore and nudity) than it is a supernatural romance, lush with gorgeously photographed Medieval locations, a sensual soundtrack, and beautiful actors in every role.
The international cast is led by rising American starlet Agnes Bruckner, perfectly cast as the Juliet to Hugh Dancy's star-crossed Romeo, caught in a deadly interspecies tryst. Olivier Martinez and Brian Dick are superb as "homo lupine" royalty.
Subtle attention to costuming enhances the characterizations. In his black leather jacket and tousled hair, Martinez's dominant scent practically wafts off the screen. Dick plays his son and heir apparent, a snidely confident Brit preppie leading a pack of hormonally driven young followers.
Katja Riemann is the lean, sexy MILF of the pack, which is made up of dozens of hot young Romanian actors who perform their minor roles with vigor. It's nice when even the background players take their roles seriously and contribute greatly to the atmosphere, and too rare.
The one area I could quibble with is the special visual EFX, but I won't because the single faulty effect is very minor, the kind that turns up frequently, even in big Hollywood blockbusters. Garnier makes effective use of action and stunts coupled with some great animal casting. The animals, by the way, are excellent actors as well.
Blessedly, she forgoes the slash-and-burn digital editing effects so popular among lesser directors who rely on it to disguise their lackluster direction. She actually knows how to drive an action sequence without digitally blurred swishpans and chopshots that break the narrative flow to remind you how clever the filmmaker is. Instead she frames her shots masterfully, gets plenty of coverage, and uses traditional cross-cutting to add dynamism and suspense.
The cinematography and production design are topnotch, taking full advantage of the architectural treasures of Romania, from palatial mansions to grungy industrial cellars. The soundtrack is excellent, the music hip but not obtrusive. The sound efx are rich and clean.
The screenplay is by Ehren Kruger (THE RING, BROTHERS GRIMM, SKELETON KEY) and Christopher Landon (DISTURBIA, and son of Michael!). Their screenplay is pretty straightforward, ticking along like clockwork. It's based on a novel by Annette Curtis Klause, who's written some interesting, off-the-wall novels. Not having read her book BLOOD & CHOCOLATE, I can't comment on any possible differences, but the screenplay is well-crafted and the characters nicely drawn.
Based on a book by a woman and directed by one, this is a great movie for couples or family viewing, with a good story told well, plenty to like, and nothing too exploitive or controversial. Its sexiness is very low-key but I suspect it would be a good tool for seduction. When the werewolf king flashes his wolf eyes, I'm sure hearts will melt and knickers will get misty.