Teddy Pruvost could hardly be said to be leading a charmed existence even before he’s bitten by the wolf that’s been the bane of the sheep farmers in the provincial town where he lives. Marked as an outcast from the moment he’s introduced disrupting the dedication of a monument to the handful of locals who fought in World War II, Teddy is a school dropout and metal fan who works at a massage parlor where the owner makes a habit of coming on to him. On top of that, his foster family consists of the village idiot and his invalid mother, and his girlfriend’s parents barely acknowledge his existence, probably because they expect her to drop him like a hot pomme de terre when she graduates and goes away to college. Changes are afoot for Teddy, though, when he investigates a strange sound in the woods one night and is bitten by some unseen creature. (Guess what?)
An Official Selection at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, Teddy (which is now streaming on Shudder) is the brainchild of writer-director brothers Ludovic and Zoran Boukherma, who also co-edited the film because that’s how dedicated they were to getting their story about a French slacker who slowly turns into a bloodthirsty monster out into the world. With his buzz cut and dragon T-shirt, Anthony Bajon fits the bill as the put-upon Teddy, who seems to have a good thing going with his girlfriend Rebecca (Christine Gautier), but his plans for their future together — including the house he intends to build on a plot of land he owns for some unexplained reason — get put out to pasture when he starts growing hair in progressively unusual places (starting with his tongue) and being transfixed by the moon, which doesn’t have to be full to have an effect on him.
Much like David Kessler in An American Werewolf in London (the subject of my very first Full Moon Features column one decade ago), Teddy becomes prone to disturbing dreams, having close encounters with wolves, and waking up naked in unusual places after his nocturnal wanderings. The Boukhermas, however, are less interested in cracking jokes than crafting a serious character study of a marginalized young man pushed to lash out at the world when he’s made to feel rejected on all fronts. It’s a pity, then, that they keep his lupine form almost entirely in shadow when he finally lets the wolf out, but the carnage he leaves in his wake makes plain that his teeth and claws aren’t merely for show.