This werewolf film is a visual feast.
Kicking off Fantastic Fest’s virtual 2020 celebration, “Teddy” brings werewolves back onto the big screen. The French film, written and directed by Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma, stars Anthony Bajon. The narrative follows an ignorant and troublemaking teenager who is attacked by a mysterious creature in the woods. In between struggling to keep a long-term relationship afloat and working at a bizarre massage parlor, Teddy must also deal with a set of unsettling (and hairy) changes happening to his body.
What sets “Teddy” apart from most werewolf films is its beautiful visual style. Set in the French countryside, the film makes use of several unique and breathtaking locations. Whether it’s the neon-colored walls of the massage parlor Teddy works at, or the striking greenery of fields (covered in dead animals), the terrors of this horror story take place amongst a pretty backdrop. Simple colorful lighting techniques and intriguing production design elevate almost every scene in the film regardless of its content.
As noted by the directors during a post-screening Q&A, “Teddy” takes inspiration from classic horror tropes and scenes. As opposed to approaching a werewolf transformation sequence in a traditional way, the film tackles its protagonist’s grisly metamorphosis with a frightening twist. Teddy deals with hairs growing out of his tongue and eyeball in several unsettling sequences of pure body terror. These instances are just as uncomfortable for the viewer as they are the protagonist, lending to the immersive horror experience.
The plot and character narrative is relatively simple, following many familiar coming-of-age tropes. Aside from his werewolf dilemma, Teddy is faced with the struggles of fitting in with a new group of friends, a troubled home life and a job he hates. As aspects of Teddy’s life are revealed, the audience begins to understand why he’s so quick to anger. Despite the lead character’s many unlikable traits, audiences are able to sympathize with him as they are exposed to every facet of his life. The film’s main pitfall is pacing. The narrative flow is inconsistent, and time moves at a quick and confusing rate.
In terms of its take on horror storytelling, “Teddy” certainly takes a page out of, “An American Werewolf In London”’s book. The harrowing climax of the film is not only a cathartic release of the horror but an expression of the range of emotions that have surrounded Teddy from the start of the film. Frequently, the camera lingers and moves in on unsettling imagery, bringing viewers closer and closer to the terror.
“Teddy” is a refreshing return to the werewolf genre that sports beautiful cinematography, practical gore, a strong cast and accessible story.
4 hairy eyeballs out of 5