Glen Matthews’ Teething takes the fundamental moral questions that birthed the mythology of vampirism and places them into a contemporary context. Set in an orphanage, Teething follows a janitor who has to deal with the consequences of a vampire’s bloodthirsty actions. It’s a stylish and well-written short film which hits that unique sweet spot between being totally disturbing yet subtly heartwarming. Twelve Cabins spoke with Matthews in the run up to FrightFest to talk vampire mythology, his favourite audience reviews, and creating an ending which is both traumatic and miraculous.
What inspired the concept for Teething?
I was having drinks with a friend who was working on Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. He told me the concept of a deaf woman falling in love with a fish man and I instantly joked that I was working on something called Vampire Baby. The idea stuck, it morphed into Teething, and now five years later, I’ve got a short in the can and a corresponding feature in development. Follow your dumb dreams, kids.
Did you draw from any particular vampire films or mythology?
Let The Right One In is one of my favourite films, so I’m sure it’s embedded somewhere in the DNA of Teething. For the feature’s development, I’ve been researching links between Catholic mythology and vampires. Pretty rad stuff.
Strange question, what the process like developing the sound design? So much of the tension is built around the baby’s distress, was the something that was worked in post?
Heading into production, we knew that the sound design was an area that we were relying on heavily to tell our story. I met with Daenen Bramberger and we hit it off. I had a very clear vision for where everything would land, but Daenen really stepped in and brought it all to life.
For the end, were you looking to strike a blend of disturbing and heartwarming?
Absolutely. I was looking to try and create something for the ending that felt like an emotional car wreck. I wanted it to be both traumatic and miraculous at the same time. I’d been watching a bunch of Yorgos Lanthimos’ films when we were in pre-production and I think his pacing and framing was a huge influence in my figuring out how to build that ending.
How have audiences responded to it so far? I feel like Teething cleverly plays with audience assumptions.
So far so good! We’ve gotten a few kind notes on Letterboxd, as well as via email, which has been very appreciated considering the fact that we’re all locked away, hiding from this miserable pandemic. My favourite post was a three-star review that went ‘Super messed up and unsettling. I guess that’s what they were going for’.
I love those kinds of comments! On a side note, what was it that interested you in making specifically a horror short?
I don’t think any other genre puts the tools of cinema to better use than horror. All of the films I’d made prior to Teething had been DIY productions with varying levels of audio-visual imperfection, so with Teething, I set out to make something as cinematically slick and engaging as I could possibly muster.
What’s your next project?
I’m currently finishing the fourth draft of Teething, so fingers-crossed for feature financing!