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Werewolfy `Blood' is a howler, all right

A would-be horror fantasy with romantic trappings bites the dust on all counts despite some notable names.

January 29, 2007|Lael Loewenstein | Special to The Times

Does the world really need another werewolf movie? Why does Agnes Bruckner look so glum? And what has happened to the career of French heartthrob Olivier Martinez?

These and other questions are prompted by the arrival of "Blood and Chocolate" from German director Katja von Garnier. It's a relentlessly silly horror/fantasy/romance that is merely the latest twist on a tired premise. Fourteen years ago, Von Garnier made a terrific female-bonding satire called "Making Up!" ("Abgeschminkt!"), but the pizazz and originality of her directorial voice have been diluted beyond recognition.

After a brief Colorado-set prologue in which a girl watches as her entire family is killed by an angry mob, the action switches to present-day Romania. Now grown, the girl jogs through Bucharest trying to forget her troubled past and the family massacre for which she blames herself. The young woman, Vivian (Bruckner), is a werewolf, here referred to as loup garoux, its mythological moniker. Sheltered by her aunt Astrid (Katja Riemann) for a decade, Vivian is the preordained future mate of pack leader Gabriel (Martinez). What complicates matters -- and is more than a little icky -- is that Gabriel is Vivian's uncle by marriage to Astrid. Gabriel and Astrid share a son, the petulant, power-hungry Rafe (Bryan Dick).

Gabriel, who owns an absinthe factory, lectures his followers (in an obscure Franco-Romanian accent) on the need for strict allegiance. While Rafe and his gang lurk about Bucharest terrorizing tourists, Vivian spends her days working in a chocolate shop. One night she meets Aiden (Hugh Dancy), a struggling artist researching the loup garoux for a graphic novel. Vivian falls hard for Aiden but knows she's promised to Gabriel, which means that Aiden will have to fight Gabriel and his pack. Talk about a girl with baggage.

But thank goodness Aiden is well steeped in werewolf lore. And soon so are we. Who knew, for instance, that you could kill a werewolf with a butter knife, albeit one made of silver?

Most of the cast members act as if they wish they were somewhere else, especially Bruckner, whose wooden demeanor and dour expression make you wonder why Aiden is attracted to her. Then there is Martinez, so magnetic in films such as "Unfaithful" and "The Horseman on the Roof." Here he gives off the impression that there isn't enough absinthe in all of Romania to obliterate the taste of this clunker.

"Blood and Chocolate" MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence/terror, some sexuality and substance abuse. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes. In general release.

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