Main Cast: Jess Weixler

Director: Mitchel Lichtenstein

Some people have a strange idea of what makes a horror/comedy.

While I feel the tone of several scenes in writer/director Mitchel Lichtenstein’s 2007 movie TEETH to be lighter than you’d expect from a movie with such heavy themes, I didn’t find it to be funny in the least.  Nor did I find it necessarily scary unless you’re a rapist, which I am not.  In which case, I have to judge the movie with different criteria.

TEETH is about high school student and purity group spokesperson Dawn (Jess Weixler, IT CHAPTER TWO).  The bulk of the story details Dawn simply trying to get by on her own terms in a world that demands she be someone she isn’t.  As a member of The Promise, Dawn has sworn to save herself for marriage.

But this new kid in the group, Tobey, has been on her mind a lot lately, as she is on his.  They struggle to remain pure, but one day Dawn breaks down and kisses Tobey.  Tobey, being a regular horny teen dealing with guilt over his one previous sexual encounter, sees the kiss as his green light to keep going despite Dawn’s protests and struggles.

When Dawn’s vagina dentata take a bite out of Tobey, both teens freak out.  Tobey at his mutilation, and Dawn because she’s not really sure what happened.

She goes to a doctor to be checked out, but the doctor is also a dirtbag, foregoing the glove and using all four fingers for his examination.  I’ve never been there, but that doesn’t seem accurate at all.  Well, the doctor soon discovers what Tobey already knew when those four fingers are bitten off.

That’s when Dawn finally figures out what’s going on inside her.  But that’s not even the WORST of it. Her mother has been very sick for a while, and is now hospitalized.  Her stepbrother has been trying to get in her pants since they were kids.  And Tobey’s body has been fished out of the lake they had been swimming in prior to the attempted rape.

Dawn intends to go to the police but first she needs to talk to someone.  A boy at school, Ryan, gave her ride home earlier, and at this point he’s the only one she feels she can turn to.

And Ryan is very nice to her, kind and sweet … until she discovers WHY he’s being so nice to her.

A girl just can’t win in this world!!!

TEETH is the perfect revenge movie for anyone in the world who’s been a victim of a sexual assault.  And just to drive the point home, Lichtenstein does not shy away from showing the after effects lying flaccid and bloody on the ground, without ever feeling the need to show us what exactly Dawn has going on.  And then of course there’s a nude scene that could be meant to be empowering, but could also just as equally be gratuitous, so you know, six of one, half dozen of the other.

Weixler gives a standout performance as Dawn, the girl who just wants to live her life without everything being about sex–even to a slightly annoying length like when she and her friends are trying to pick a movie to see.  Obviously nothing rated R but, she warns, “even PG-13 is going to have some heavy petting.”  Holy crap, just see whatever movie sounds interesting!  But still, I 100% believed Dawn was a real person living in the world.  Through her mannerisms, her delivery, everything, Weixler gave us a fully realized main character to follow around and root for.  And there are some times we are totally rooting for her, some moments when Dawn comes to some realizations about the way of the world and how her own naiveté has affected her place in that world.  And when she takes charge and uses her … “gifts” to change some negative aspects of her life, we want to cheer her on.

Now to the negatives.  My biggest, and only real complaint here is that, of all the male characters in the movie, there is exactly ONE who isn’t a total dirt bag: Dawn’s father.  And that’s as it should be, but Jesus Christ, not EVERY man out there is a piece of shit.  I’m quite sure there was at least one or two guys Dawn knew at school who weren’t only interested in getting into her pants, but we never see her interact with these people, and while that probably helps to streamline the story the writer is trying to tell, it just leaves something to be desired in Dawn’s interactions with the opposite sex.

Lichtenstein fills TEETH with tons of vaginal imagery, as if he feels the need to constantly remind us not only what’s going on, but what he’s never going to show.  From hollow tree trunks to gaping caverns lined with stalactites, yeah yeah, we get it, we’re in on the joke.  But he also gives us plenty of not-so-subtle imagery and clues to Dawn’s origins in the constant presence of a pair of nuclear reactors in the background, looking so comical and out of place, I felt like he was taking his backgrounds straight out of an episode of The Simpsons at times.

But overall, I really enjoyed TEETH.  It wasn’t the movie I expected it to be with such harsh subject matter, but Lichtenstein wrote and directed a well-constructed, beautifully-shot movie that I think could end up being pretty important in the horror genre as an “extreme” horror movie that is, really, anything but and comes across as very empowering.  And then there’s Jess Weixler who just gave such a strong, believable performance.  Excellent work all around on this one.

You’ll find more horror movie reviews by Dennis over at Horror Corner.

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