Before diving into my thoughts on TEDDY, let’s take a moment to raise a glass in celebration of Fantastic Fest. This festival has been very important to me, as a critic, but beyond my personal connection to it, Fantastic Fest is an assembly of film’s black sheep in a raucous celebration of fun and film. This year’s Fantastic Fest has reduced in scope and gone virtual, in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. While it’s tragic to not join a pack of fellow weirdos at the iconic Alamo Drafthouse for a week of genre goodies, it was a beautiful and intimate thing to watch Fantastic Fest unfold on its opening night.
It’s exciting, in these stressful times, to know that cinema’s most devoted cult can gather together online, build inside jokes in a screening chat, and connect with each other and a film. Bravo to the Fantastic Fest team on a job well done. You couldn’t have picked a better film than TEDDY to create that experience with.
TEDDY is directed by twin directors Ludovic and Zoren Boukherma, in their second feature film. Anthony Bajon stars as the complicated, “you love him, you’re scared of him” Teddy. Bajon has already made his mark with his serious acting chops, winning the Silver Bear Award at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival.
Teddy is a slacker dropout, working a bizarre job at a massage parlor, and on a path to nowhere. Teddy is also hopelessly in love with his girlfriend and is willing to stick it out at a job he hates so that they can settle down someday soon. One night, he follows a rustling in the leaves into a dark wood and is attacked by a mysterious beast. Rumors swirl around the village about a killer wolf that is stalking the town’s sheep. As he begins to experience alarming changes, it’s possible that the night stalking monster is something much more sinister.
TEDDY is a delightful cocktail of all the best monster offerings – a little bit of An American Werewolf in London, a little bit of I Was a Teenage Werewolf, and a little bit of Jaws (but on land). It’s to the directors’ credit that homage and references to every great horror film of the past several decades are delicately woven in. The result is a refreshed take on the werewolf within a boldly contemporary film that never strays from the nostalgic elements of the genre that horror fans love. It’s so easy to connect with, as a horror lover, and that connection is crucial.
The real monster of TEDDY is not the monster he is becoming, but the monster that has been living in him all along. The monstrous transformation of Teddy into a literal werewolf, walks hand in hand with his urges and angst and rage at falling behind in life. As the young people in his community finish school and move on to better things, Teddy is stunted and bound to a life he’s not happy with. Furthermore, it’s his inability to grow up that will take his beloved girlfriend away from him.
Teddy, as a character, is riddled with anger and the mindset that it’s him versus everybody else. These moments of the film are hard to watch because the viewer can so clearly see the path that Teddy is on long before Teddy realizes where he’s headed. TEDDY calls upon the cultural pox of incels and the rage of any school shooter. As a sympathetic viewer, we feel for Teddy and we understand that it’s not entirely his fault that he will become a monster. But he is still recognized absolutely as a monster and meets the fate of the bloodthirsty monster.
TEDDY has a lot to say and says it in the language of horrific gore and visceral, cringe-inducing body horror. Teddy’s change is subtle and slow, leading audience members to hold their breath through scenes waiting for the hammer to drop. It’s spine-tingling fun of the grandest kind.
TEDDY takes everything you know about the werewolf movie and wraps it up in tragedy and romance befitting any great French film. With “retch out loud” body horror and a horrific climax, you can’t help but squirm in your seat. TEDDY rises to the challenge, as a modern monster.
TEDDY held its North American Premiere at the 2020 Celebration of Fantastic Fest on September 24, 2020.