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Blood and Chocolate

My first realization that this film existed was when the theatrical trailer appeared before some film-which one, I don't precisely recall-that I was viewing in the nearby college town of Athens, Georgia, whereupon a theater full of what one would assume to be the primary demographic for a feature of this sort burst into unanimous and confused laughter at hearing the title. "Chocolate? The hell does chocolate have to do with werewolves?" was the unspoken question I imagined scurrying from head to head like a jonesing squirrel searching for crack, a presumed question which I felt was entirely justified. Forget preview screenings of the film; the studio behind this would have done well to simply conduct some preview screenings of their damned trailer just to see how much they would've probably benefited in the profit department by changing the title to Bloodsucking Devil Dogs or Our Eurotrash Gang. Anything.

Oh, and on top of that, the film isn't any damn good. That's significant, too.

What, that wasn't enough detail for you? Jeeezus. Okay. So here's the deal. There's this girl named Vivian, who's a werewolf, and who hangs out with her werewolf gang in Romania, and who just wants to be a normal girl, and works in a chocolate shop, by which the author(s) justify the remarkably pretentious title of this yarn. Like all creatures of the night to come along ever since Ann Rice was barfed up into the world by...her mom, I guess, these werewolves aren't really bad guys, just deeply misunderstood. People hate them. People want to kill them. Who could blame them? This insufferable bunch of smug-ass Goth self-preeners just cries out to be beaten up by somebody. If anybody ever found out that a lot of the local Bauhaus fans were really shape-shifting predators who, only very occassionally, kill people who piss them off just a little bit, then whoo, boy. There would be silver bullets flying faster than bored theater patrons fleeing the venue. Imagine then, just imagine, how threatening it would be for the pack when our heroine, who just wishes she could have the aforementioned nice and normal existence gets hit on by a non-lycanthrope with a remarkably coincidental interest in all things wolfy. Fuck, man; I hate it when that happens.

From there, things move along in a predictable fashion: she tries to discourage her suitor, he declines to be discouraged, the pack threatens him, conflicts escalate, and despite this escalation, things stay really boring. The werewolves-who are almost exclusively referred to by the French term loup-garou, since the film is set in...Romania...yeah, I don't get it, either-are never particularly scary. They're never terribly interesting, either. Despite the ongoing fascination with these sorts of underground demon society cult things in stories aimed at the youth, our cadre of badass outsiders are steeped in dogmatic tradition and unchallengable rules that are never fully explanained, making these supposed ultracool underdogs about as intriguing as the average Bible-thumping Southern Baptist. The pack leader, a man with the requisite Trent Reznor beard and the moniker of Gabriel, just to fulfill the required pointless Biblical reference, might as well be the local pastor who just wants to bed one of the younger members of his congregation; indeed, that seems to be his only real motivation. Pardon me for thinking, but I tend to prefer my character conflict to be rooted in something more compelling than "well, them's the rules, ya see." We've all heard the story of Romeo and Juliet, and heard it retold a million times subsequent, so forgive me if I don't feel the need to be involved here. Endless interations of this basic premise have practially programmed our culture to automatically sympathize with the persecuted young lovers whether they're well-written or, as the case may be, not. Shakespeare at least knew how to make interesting use of language, and never had to include a scene of a bunch of posery dorks voguing their way through some horribly dreary music.

Bottom line: I've seen good love stories. I've seen good monster flicks. Hell, I've seen Bram Stoker's Dracula, which was a pretty good example of both and also was drenched in Gothicky sadness, and yet still enjoyable. If you want me to like your film, you have to come to terms with the fact that everything's already been done, and dedicate yourself to doing it again in an interesting or innovative way. Supposedly this was based on a piece of popular youth fiction, which was also supposedly good, but I've never heard of it before, as I'm not a sixteen year-old girl who calls her bedroom the Dungeon of Suffering, so I cannot confirm or deny that the source material had any lamentably lost quality. But I'm not unsure enough to waste any of my remaining life trying to find out.

-review by Matt Murray

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