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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Teeth

MOVIE REVIEWS

TEETH (2008)

Starring Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Pais, Hale Appleman, Ashley Springer, Vivienne Benesch, Lenny Von Dohlen, Nicole Swahn, Julia Garro and Adam Wagner.

Screenplay by Mitchell Lichtenstein.

Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein.

Distributed by Dimension Extreme.  88 minutes.  Rated R.

 

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Teeth

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 unnecessary.

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 her personality. 

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.

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Copyright 2008   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 1, 2008.