Monday, October 11, 2010


Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein.
2007. Rated R, 94 minutes.
Jess Weixler
John Hensley
Hale Appleman
Lenny von Dohlen
Josh Pais
Vivienne Benesch
Ashley Springer

If you buy the argument that the moral of many horror films, particularly slasher flicks, is that teenage and premarital sex is bad, you are already part of the foundation upon which Teeth is built. As it was explained to us in Wes Craven’s Scream, the characters that have sex die horrible deaths, leaving only the virginal heroine to save the day. This movie not only subscribes to that philosophy, it rubs your nose in it like you were a puppy whose unfortunate error ended up on the carpet.

Dawn (Weixler) is our virginal heroine. In most horror flicks, that would be divulging too much information. Here, not so much. See, she’s also the villain. Dawn is a high school student who fights on the frontline of the war between abstinence and promiscuity. She has taken a sacred vow to save herself for marriage, even forgoing masturbation, and gives lectures to fellow teens and preteens, encouraging them to do the same. Of course, there may be something she’s not even aware of driving her decision to maintain her purity.

Shortly after we meet Dawn, she meets a boy, Toby (Appleman). She likes him so much she begins to reevaluate her ideals. He’s not as strong as she is, having indulged once before. As things really heat up between the two, she remembers her vow and pleads with him to stop. Since he can’t control himself, an attempted rape ensues. This is when she discovers something about herself we’ve suspected since first reading the title, then watching the opening scene. Her vagina is not like other vaginas. Hers contains a very powerful set of teeth. Let’s just say men who dare enter, exit a digit short, a few digits in one case.

After this, we watch Dawn try to understand and come to grips with her own body and finds herself in some odd situations that lead to graphically bloody messes. Yes gore fans, we’re treated to the sight of a few lopped off penises and freshly castrated males gushing blood from the space where the wrong brain used to be. How we arrive at those scenes, I won’t tell. I will say that the last of them is jaw-dropping and even more cringe inducing than its predecessors.

By the time Teeth ends, we have a girl-power movie unlike any other. It’s undeniably feminist because the woman we focus on is absolutely empowered. She dominates men not with brawn like so many female action heroes, but by directly using the one thing all straight men covet against them. It lends credence to the theory women rule the world because almost everything we men do is designed to help us get in their pants.

Since Dawn is absolutely empowered, she falls victim to an old cliché. Eventually, she becomes corrupted, absolutely. How this is handled is key to the movie. She’s likeable and even as she becomes more and more comfortable with her peculiar style of vigilante justice we still see the victim fighting back. We understand her. Besides, what better incentive is there for young men to keep it zipped than the potential for their most valuable possession to be chopped off? The movie keeps from turning us totally off by making the whole thing with a wonderfully twisted sense of humor. In addition to being a horror flick, it’s a very dark comedy. The two genres blend and help the movie work on several levels.

As much as I like Teeth, it is not without its faults. Dawn’s mother has a mysterious illness that’s made a big deal of, but is completely irrelevant. The police are shown, but never really involved though they obviously should be. The men, save for her dad, are all one-note morons hardly worthy of conquering. However, they definitely warrant punishing which drives the movie. All in all, I enjoyed it immensely. Some may dismiss it as silly and disgusting. Some, like myself, will find this to be a low-budget gem. It’s a reminder that horror is as much about what you feel as it is what you see.

No comments:

Post a Comment