Review by Jack Foley
MITCHELL Lichtenstein’s Teeth is the type of horror film that really needs to be seen to be believed – if you can stomach it! Though tongue-in-cheek, the film explores the vagina dentata myth (that’s teeth in the vagina for those unaware of it) and includes some suitably gruesome fates for its male victims.
It’s jaw dropping in its audacity but not entirely successful in its execution, biting off more than it can ultimately chew because of an uneven tone.
Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a High School beauty struggling to understand the changes taking place in her body. An object of desire for all the red-blooded males – including her stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) and college new boy Tobey (Hale Appleman) – she’s vowed to stay pure and become a role model for all the young girls in her community.
But following an erotic encounter with Tobey at a remote lake that gets out of hand with painful repercussions, Dawn realises there’s more to her make-up than meets the eye and sets about using her weapon to tame sexual predators.
The legend of vagina dentata exists in numerous cultures and religions but writer-director Lichtenstein was struck by the idea of adapting it for the horror genre, and spinning it into a fresh take on the battle between the sexes. Hence, he takes the classic depiction of women as helpless victims and/or sex objects that’s more commonly associated with the genre and turns it spectacularly on its head.
But while the build-up is certainly intriguing, the climax is definitely outrageous and Teeth is certain to have you laughing, squirming and looking away in disgust in pretty equal measure. Honourable mentions must go to the cast for keeping such straight faces throughout. Weixler, in particular, excels as Dawn, balancing confusion and fear with a reluctant acceptance of her capabilities, while there’s a great cameo from Josh Pais as an unfortunate gynaecologist.
Only Nip/Tuck‘s John Hensley really plays things too OTT, emerging as the film’s most unappealing and least believable character.
The biggest concern with Lichtenstein’s film, however, is the way it awkwardly attempts to extract humour from some very serious subject matter – sex abuse included – which leaves a nasty taste. The director has stated that he wouldn’t have been able to get the film past the censors a few years ago, and it’s a worrying indication of how far censorship has lapsed that a film of this nature can get a certificate.
That’s not to say viewers should expect gratuitous shots of female genitalia – far from it – but severed male members are depicted in all their bloody glory. Teeth is therefore an oddly unsettling experience that boasts plenty of bite for die hard horror fans but which also poses some worrying moral questions. In that sense, it’s a curiosity piece to be approached with caution.
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD Release: October 13, 2008
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- Teeth: Underground campaign examines Vagina Dentata