May 8, 2008

“Vagina dentata!”

Ambitious, provocative horror/satire from writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein: Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a popular, if very troubled, high school chastity group speaker for her local church, known for her ability to recruit more student pledges, whose promise to keep their virginity intact is symbolized by a ruby red ring. Compounding her troubles, which include a dying mother and being harassed by a perverse half-brother Brad (John Hensley), she finds herself plagued by sexual urges when she meets a new member of the chastity group, Tobey (Hale Appleman). Then, midway through the movie, she discovers she has a unique defense against male sexual assault, teeth in her vagina (evolutionary adaptation? nuclear power plant mutation?) that react before she can think about it, at first, anyway. The central problem with Teeth is that because it plays it so straight initially, it’s just not very funny for half the running time, which, of course, is not very good for a movie primarily in a comic mode. In other words, it lacks a lot of the bite you would think a movie about a woman with a vagina with teeth would have. That said, the inevitable amputations are staged with the appropriate hysteria and are as gorily explicit as the R-rating will allow (which is quite a lot, really, but then since they’re played mostly for laughs, that may have made a difference). What really holds the movie together is Weixler, whose carefully modulated performance as Dawn never devolves into caricature, despite the movie’s wild shifts in tone. The rest of the cast is also good enough that they mostly carry you through the movie’s flaws. Teeth has some visually dazzling moments going for it as well, and a sequence with Dawn and Tobey going for a swim is particularly well staged. And once it cuts loose, so to speak, it’s got some big laughs, and there’s a low angle shot towards the end that I won’t soon forget. All in all, Teeth is not a total success, but it is worth a look for those who like their horror/comedies to have some depth to them, as well as a rare feminist bent.


(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)


2 Responses to “MONKEY REVIEW: Teeth”

  1. Nanu Says:

    Funny… there is an american indian story that is about that.

  2. radiondn Says:

    The movie makes a point to note that multiple cultures, American Indians included, have a vagina dentata sort of a story.

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