The symbolic baggage behind the central
conceit of Teeth alone could keep a Freudian busy for hours.
Dawn is a young, beautiful,
virginal girl who is afflicted with a legendary-but-mythical condition
called vagina dentata - which essentially means that she has a set
teeth of inside her vagina.
This unusual condition
becomes apparent when men start forcing themselves upon her and find
themselves paying dearly for their lustful advances and pressures.
It's certainly a novel
premise for a horror film, if not a particularly subtle one.
After all, horror films are
mostly watched by young men in their teens or early twenties. So why
not make a horror film about the single scariest thing in the world for that
audience? Well, actually, the two scariest things - the vagina and the
possibility of losing their penises.
Not that Teeth is
exactly a horror film, per se. It is more of a black comedy and
social satire with thriller aspects - despite the fact that on the DVD
release, the box is
obviously trying to sell it as a straight scare flick.
The film debut of
writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein (his father was the famous pop artist
Roy Lichtenstein) has a lot of interesting things to say - though it doesn't
always say them as succinctly or cleverly as it could. In fact, it's
sometimes rather heavy-handed with its points.
Jess Weixler is
surprisingly successful in being likable in a character which could be
annoying in so many different ways and levels - both as a prude and as an
emasculating force. In fact, Weixler won a Sundance award as Best
Actress for the role.
Dawn is a high school
student who lives in a run-down suburban tract house right in the shadows of
a nuclear power plant. Though the plant is shown several times, they
never really go so far as to say that her condition is due to living in
close proximity to it. As a matter of fact, a flashback in the
beginning suggests she already had the problem when she first moved there -
so the power plant seems like a bit of a cheat, or at the very least rather
She is very involved in a
school abstinence program, wearing a promise ring, giving speeches espousing
virginity, ignoring classmate taunts and teenaged urges. However, when
a new boy moves to the school and joins the promise ring program, she finds
herself having thoughts that she had never experienced before.
Soon she finds herself
thinking of marriage, kissing and masturbation. He also seems to be
tempted, and when they are alone together in a cave which is a local
make-out site, he loses control and forces himself on her. It is here
that Dawn learns about her very odd affliction - as does he, much to his
horror. At first she is horrified about what is happening to her,
however, eventually she learns to accept it and use it to take the ultimate
feminist empowerment revenge on men.
The film's heavy-handedness
is especially shown in the repugnant men in the film. The victims are
a bunch of cartoonish male types. There is the sleazy step-brother
who has become an staunch ass-man due to a barely recalled childhood game of
doctor with his little sis. Then there is a slimy old guy who picks
her up and is disturbingly sleazy without saying a single word, just facial
and tongue gestures. Finally the gynecologist who keeps howling
"Vagina dentata" at the top of his lungs like a deranged Vincent Price, as
he looks at his severed fingers on the floor.
Also, in a tiny bit of
filmmaking cowardice, the ravenous sex organ is never seen. If you are
going to go all out with an outrageous premise such as this, then you can't
pull your punches. Good taste is already off the table here.
However, Weixler is able to
keep the film from going completely off the rails through the sheer force of
Still, despite the
wonderful performance at its heart, Teeth
does not have as much bite as its novel premise suggests it should.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: May 1, 2008.