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'Teddy' Review: Flashes its fangs too late

Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma's 'Teddy' is a werewolf story about an outcast boy and his bloodthirsty transformation.

Things are about to get hairy in 'Teddy.'
(Image: © Shudder)

Our Verdict

'Teddy' is a defanged werewolf tale that tries to combine coming-of-age angst with quirky comedy and a horror story in there somewhere, none of which shine particularly bright.

For

  • 🩸 Anthony Bajon is the standout.
  • 🩸 Ain't a bad lookin' werewolf.
  • 🩸 When it hits, it hits.

Against

  • 🩸 Never feels in balance.
  • 🩸 Quirky and ambitious, in theory.
  • 🩸 A horror comedy that forgets one element.

I see Teddy as a splice between Napoleon Dynamite, werewolf transformations, and metalhead angsts in a bit of an unkempt package. Filmmakers Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma (writers/directors) aren’t the first to utilize Lycan curses as a metaphor to provoke the horrors of adolescent growth—although Teddy is undeniably distinct. It’s quirky, rambunctious, and murderous, even if low-budget restraints minimize special effects screen appearances. My struggle is with a French comedy that lacks razor-sharp bites, as presented by my inability to fully embrace humor that’s caustically divisive and sometimes overbearing with a lack of terrifying interruptions.

Anthony Bajon plays Teddy Pruvost, a rural outsider whose signatures are a flaming dragon shirt and his sinful musical obsession. Teddy feels invincible around his girlfriend Rebecca (Christine Gautier), but elsewhere he’s invisible—maybe not at the massage parlor owned by hot-for-employee Ms. Ghislaine (Noémie Lvovsky). Teddy manages his foster home lifestyle until he’s attacked by a predatory creature that leaves chomp marks. Could it be the big bad wolf that townsfolk fear? As Teddy begins to undergo a metamorphosis of sorts, those odds increase.

I won’t deny my gravitation towards the off-beat and derelict performance from Bajon as a teenager who seems stuck except in love. Christine Gautier coaxes humble moments from her co-star, whether that’s discussing clitoral climaxes or their plans of homeownership as punkish dream girl Rebecca. Bajon gives himself to the tumultuousness of Teddy’s anger and aggression towards a society that’s disgraced even his namesake (a misspelled war memorial), which can be comical considering his juxtaposition as a zen temp masseuse. Or as Teddy floors his minivan’s gas pedal only to sputter and stall while extending a middle finger—Teddy’s cursed far before an unidentified animal bites into his flesh.

As an entry into the werewolf pantheon, Ludovic and Zoran emphasize primal urges over outright killings until a full moon rises. Teddy otherwise notices rather long hairs in obscene places like his tongue or eyeball—which must be removed—while there might be a meat chunk torn or rotten fingernail plucked worth an audience’s wince. It’s not until an ultimate standoff between bingo players and Teddy’s howlin’ evolution that Teddy embraces the horrific violence of an unleashed monster, which happens exclusively off-screen. Corpses pile as red juices redecorate communal bathrooms or stairwells, but there’s a cheated feeling since we only behold the aftermath. A single computerized image of a snarling beast who motions towards Rebecca from afar, one shot of werewolf arms ready to swipe claws, and dead bodies when the lights reveal what’s just occurred—that’s what Ludovic and Zoran bring to the table and, for reasons I’ll jump into right now, is not enough.

Teddy feels segmented as a summation of its thematic subplots; the Rebecca relationship, caretaker Pépin’s (Ludovic Torrent) occult fears, the underlying bestial infection. How one serves the other becomes disjointed, jumping between lovesick heart songs to Teddy’s rebellious phases to the giggling patrons who pay extra so their friend’s butthole is waxed clean. There’s a cynicism and darkness here that embraces uniquely youthful pain, hopelessness, and trauma that coming-of-age can inflict upon those not deemed popular or worthwhile. There’s also a struggle to unite these emotional outbursts with absurd Jared Hessian personalities and the deeply reddened but somewhat complacent outro. The entire culmination of workplace fantasies and bodily harm never quite gets “there” in terms of werewolf cinema—a presumably intentional imbalance between frights and social distortions which never melds.

I see Teddy as a bit of a screwball that swirls and zags before spiking into the batter’s box. It’s bouncing off padded walls by design, but the execution required to control such an ambitious choice requires pinpoint accuracy nowhere in sight. That’s not to take away from the anxiousness of watching Teddy shave his saliva-moist licker or those authentically awkward teenage wasteland moments. Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma boast a playful, sometimes abrasive vision that sporadically harshens naive sweetness, but blends like oil and water. Watch out for these Boukhermas because their experimentation exudes roguish confidence—Teddy is just better viewed as building blocks than a stone-cold stunner.