By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Even though I began my virtual festival a day early with a screener, the actual virtual fest began the following night with a beastly opener from France. Every Fantastic Fest has a central theme, and usually the festival highlights and celebrates the films of a particular nation. This year, the programmers focussed on a popular subgenre of horror–the werewolf flick. This doesn’t mean that all of the movies are wolf pictures, they simply programmed at least three movies which deal with the mythical horror creature. Teddy is a rather unique take on the subgenre, as it deals more of the psychological changes the protagonist undergoes as he slowly becomes a ravenous monster.

Anthony Bajon stars as the titular Teddy, a young adult in small rural French town who works a dreadful dead-end job at a massage salon. Teddy dreams of building a home for him and his girlfriend, but is too much of a slacker to realistically make this dream a reality, One night, Teddy gets attacked by an animal in some woods near his home. Though his doctor believes his wounds are harmless, Teddy begins to go through some bizarre changes in his life. As more and more reports of animal attacks in the town surface, the local townfolk start to believe that the wild animal is in fact a werewolf.

Written and directed by Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma, Teddy starts off with a 90s comedy feel, but then slowly devolves into a nightmare consisting of body horror and psychological mystery. The Boukherma brothers take a slow-burning approach that does meander a little, but ultimately pays off with some shock and awe. Actor Anthony Bajon gives a tremendous versatile performance as Teddy. The young actor definitely has the range to handle various kinds of material. I was also impressed with Ludovic Torrent who stars as Pepin Lebref, an unusual and idiosyncratic border in Teddy’s home and friend to the troubled young man.

This seems like the type of movie that might not appeal to everyone, giving its slower pacing and more cerebral and surreal style. This is not a horror thriller that goes for cheap scares or thrills. I found Teddy to be a refreshing take on the lyncanthrope flick that delves deeper into the psyche of its afflicted protagonist struggling to cope with his path to destruction.

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