In the works since 1997, Blood and Chocolate–a movie based on the popular teen novel by Annette Curtis Clause–is finally coming to the screen. Gauging from the complaints its rabid, pseudo-Anne Rice groupies have been spewing all over the Internet Movie Database, the already difficult process of adapting popular fiction to film has become even more difficult than usual.
The film tells the story of Vivian, a werewolf torn between her storied secret society and a normal life with the man she loves. The main problems that fans of the novel have had with the adaptation have been both the change of the setting from suburban Maryland to the much more exotic Bucharest, Romania, and the ages of the characters from teens to early twenties.
If there is anyone who can defend the movie that is hitting theatres this coming Friday, screenwriter Ehren Kruger is the guy. According to Kruger, the aesthetic changes shouldn’t be taken as a slight against the novel, as the heart of the story is still maintained.
“We wanted to stress that this conflict wasn’t solely limited to high school years, or adolescence, so we made the core group of characters a little older to stress the universality of Vivian’s conflict,” explains Kruger. “In terms of the setting, what we wanted to do was to let the setting of the story represent the pressure of tradition, and that this society of werewolves has existed for centuries, so we chose to relocate the setting to Romania, which is closer to the original myth of the loup-garou of France, and the Greek myth of King Lyceus and the lycanthropes. The core themes and conflicts are still straight from the novel.”
Clause herself, who was not consulted for the movie, seems satisfied all the same that Kruger was given the task of adapting her much-adored novel. Given the success of his past projects, which have included the English-language Ring movies and The Skeleton Key, Kruger is more than capable of handling the project with the kind of care fans of the novel will appreciate.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve loved those genres: fantasy, horror and suspense thrillers,” says Kruger. “The tension of those kinds of genres allows you to talk about some human issues, as it might feel too melodramatic to talk about them on the nose.”
It’s precisely that balance of a well-crafted supernatural thriller–being an entertaining piece that simultaneously calls attention to the human condition–which Kruger hopes to achieve with Blood and Chocolate. The message is not too serious, but the movie isn’t so campy that it forgets about it entirely.
“First and foremost, [it is] a fun, entertaining ride, but it is using the werewolf mythology to talk about cultures in conflict,” comments Kruger. “It deals with the light and the dark in human nature, and whether those two can co-exist. I think there are things you can take away from it, to reflect on.”
On the transition from page to screen, the title is usually a contentious issue, too. To change it may attract a new audience, whereas not changing it can smack of pragmatism. For Kruger, however, there wasn’t much of a debate at all on the curious title.
“It was the title that the book had, and when you see the picture, it’s really appropriate, and it adds to the metaphor of blood representing savagery, violence and animal instinct, and chocolate representing this nobler aesthetic and civilized impulse. Vivian’s whole story is this conflict between these two impulses,” he explains.
“The title may seem a little curious, but it does fit the story really well.”