Rising star Anthony Bajon is magnetic in a soulful horror film full of giggles and social commentary
Dirs/scr: Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma. France. 2020. 89 mins
If Bruno Dumont decided to make a monster movie, it might look something like Teddy. The impressive first feature from brothers Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma serves up traditional horror trappings but sets them in the kind of close-knit French community where you might encounter Li’l Quinquin. An appealing blend of sparingly deployed gore, uneasy giggles and social commentary will have genre festivals and fans eagerly sniffing around, but the soulfulness of the storytelling could attract a wider audience.
Teddy does grow gorier as it builds to a finale of Carrie-like retribution
There is a boisterous energy in Anthony Bajon’s magnetic central performance that seeps into the film itself. The presence of this rising star, the fresh blood of the Boukhermas, and the cachet of the Cannes Selects label should all enhance the commercial prospects for Teddy on its scheduled domestic release in January.
Teddy unfolds in Lot-et-Garonne, a part of the Pyrenees that is all palm trees, blue skies and civic pride. Teddy (Bajon) is a mixture of bad boy, village idiot and misunderstood misfit. Dressed in black and full of attitude, he roars around the narrow streets, music blaring and living for the moment.
The first hint of trouble in paradise is the discovery of a number of eviscerated sheep in the local fields. Is it the work of a stray dog, or perhaps a wolf? A community is on edge. Initially, the Boukhermas go down a more subtle road of suggesting rather than showing. There is a howl in the night, a growl on the soundtrack, a splatter of blood on a wall.
Instead of rushing to embrace the grislier elements of the genre, the brothers take time to invest in Teddy and make us care about him. This young man is a disgruntled temporary worker in the massage parlour Ghislaine’s Nimble Fingers. Blowsy Ghislaine (Noemie Lvovsky) veers between disdain for his attitude and desire for his body. Teddy’s heart is promised to aloof girlfriend Rebecca (Christine Gautier) in a relationship that spans the town’s social divide. For all his bolshie manner, Teddy is an incurable romantic who yearns for a better job, a happy future, a home and a family. His caring side is revealed in his relationship with his uncle Pepin (an excellent Ludovic Torrent).
One night, Teddy is attacked in the woods. There are puncture marks on his back and a broken nail is retrieved from a bloody wound. He starts to Google lycanthropy. He reports the matter to the police, who are far from sympathetic. Even the local doctor is sceptical, advising him to make a return appointment if he starts howling at the moon.
A sense of irony and a sparkle of humour are folded into the story, providing little moments of release from the simmering tension. Scenes to make you wince come in the physical changes that Teddy starts to experience, especially when he attempts to pluck a lengthy hair sprouting from his eyeball.
Teddy does grow gorier as it builds to a finale of Carrie-like retribution, but even as some plot elements are lost in the shadows, it never loses sight of Teddy’s humanity. There is a constant sense of him as a victim of both misfortune and the local class struggle. This provides a tender melancholy to underscore the extraordinary events. The Boukhermas know how to stage a vigorous werewolf tale, but they also know how to give it heart.
Production companies: Baxter Films, Les Films Velvet
International sales: WTFilms, firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Frederic Jouve, Pierre-Louis Garnon
Editing: Ludovic Boukherma, Zoran Boukherma, Beatrice Herminie
Cinematography: Augustin Barbaroux
Production design: Linda Yi
Music: Amaury Chabauty
Main cast: Anthony Bajon, Christine Gautier, Ludovic Torrent, Noemie Lvovsky