1 star (out of four)
Whenever the leader of the pack passes another werewolf, the lesser canine pulls his or her hair away from his or her neck, and bows his or her head. It's a doglike show of submission.
That's the one cool thing in ``Blood and Chocolate,'' the film based on the cryptically titled novel by Annette Curtis Klause. There's nothing else about this werewolf-on-a-budget thriller to recommend it.
It never frightens. It rarely lands a laugh. And while it isn't cheap looking, the primitive editing and optical effects ``transformation'' of these shape-shifters and the no-name cast tell you they didn't have the money to do anything interesting with the second most-exhausted genre in all of film horror.
The blank-faced but pretty Agnes Bruckner is Vivian, young Bucharest chocolatier by day, secret member of the loup garoux, werewolves, by night. She is promised to Gabriel, their pack leader, in marriage. Gabriel (Olivier Martinez of ``Unfaithful'') has a sweet deal. He gets to take a new bride every seven years.
Vivian - who, like everybody else in Bucharest, speaks English (all the signs are in English, too, which is helpful) - isn't that keen on the mating-with-Gabe idea. When she's pursued by young artist-writer Aiden (Hugh Dancy), she lets herself fall for a human, who has another nickname among her kind:
Maybe she's impressed by what Aiden does for a living. ``I write graphic novels.'' ``You mean comic books.'' ``Noooo. Graphic novels.''
He gets her back, though. He tactlessly refers to her as ``wolf girl'' every chance he gets. The sweet talker. The werewolves are pasty-faced Euro-trash, boy-band candidates who hit the clubs, stalk the lovelies, and devour them (or so the editing would have us believe). Gabriel tries to keep the N'Snack-ers in line by letting them hunt only bad people, drug dealers, etc. If the humans there get wind of the werewolves in their midst, extinction can't be far behind.
The German woman who directed this (Katja von Garnier) mixed London and Bucharest locations, and does a decent job of hiding the cheap shape-shifting moments by having her actors leap into the air before cutting to the wolves they turn into when they hit the ground. The biggest budget item must have been wolf-trainers. She has her actors jump around, sort of climbing walls (no money for wirework or stuntmen).
It's not convincing. It's dully acted. The story manages one chilling, almost touching moment, and then backs away from it in an instant.
But ``Blood and Chocolate'' does offer two tiny consolations. At least it's not a vampire movie. And at least this bad German horror director isn't Uwe Boll.
'Blood and Chocolate'
Cast: Anges Bruckner, Olivier Martinez, Hugh Dancy. Director: Katja von Garnier Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Industry rating: PG-13 for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times