To describe the premise of Teeth sort of spoils some of the fun of the movie but unfortunately some spoilers are needed to let anyone thinking of watching this movie (especially men) know what their getting into. This movie is graphic, shocking, and cringe-worthy at times, but also a great sex-ed commentary on abstinence. It wavers from the oddly funny to the very disturbing and walks the line well with a very talented lead actress.
Teeth is the story of Dawn (Jess Weixler), a high schooler who strictly adheres to her vow of abstinence (she is one of the leaders of Promise, her school’s teen chastity group). That works out well too, since she is literally the living representation of vagina dentata (better known as the toothed vagina) – i.e., what goes in, it doesn’t come out. But all bets are off when she meets Tobey (Hale Appleman) though, as he seems like the perfect boy for her. They begin to see each other and during one date, he rapes Dawn, and has his – gulp – penis cut off in the process. He dies from the large wound which makes Dawn very guilty, so she sets about to find out what is wrong with her. So what starts off as a story about a relatively normal prude teenager eventually morphs into a full blown femme-fatale tale.
This film is writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein’s debut feature film and he shows some real promise to be a prominent horror director in the future. He smartly uses the bizarre concept to explore female empowerment and centuries old sexual mores. This sometimes leads the story off track, branching off into other paths that really aren’t needed to continue with the main theme. It is also tough to categorize this film as horror; you’re not scared about what will happen next (very little buildup) but you’ll cringe when you think about what body parts you will see next turned into a bloody stump. Some of the characters are written a little too one-dimensional as well, which is unfortunate but for such a small film not very surprising.
The acting here is somewhat of the low point of the film but nothing the actors do wrong is as cringe-worthy as what is done to some of them. Sweet and pure Dawn is the best portrayed in the film, and it would not be surprising to see Jess Weixler become a much more popular actress in the very near future. Dawn’s detestable step-brother Brad (played by Nip/Tuck’s John Hensley) is one of the more one sided characters, but Hensley does a good job with what he is given for a character. The rest of the characters, excluding a rather funny small part of Dr. Godfrey (Josh Pais), just don’t seem up to par – they aren’t played as well and are very inconsequential to the meat of the movie.
Teeth is an interesting, if not at times funny, little horror film that doesn’t try to do too much. Instead of plodding along, following the typical horror template, it tries to take the viewer on a very unique ride. It works most of the time but sometimes it gets caught up in itself a little too much. And except for a few actors, this small-scale, indie flick has got some decent acting and direction to be proud of. Check it out if you think you can handle the subject matter – I believe you will find a surprisingly good movie under all the darker themes and messages.