A blog about movies and filmmaking.

This is why you don’t put things, where they don’t belong!

In b-movie, comedy, cult film, sci-fi on March 2, 2009 at 3:25 am

Imagine being a young woman, who has always felt that she wanted to save herself for marriage. You’ve taken a “promise of purity”, you attend and speak at weekly meetings at your school, helping other kids understand and support their decision to remain a virgin until marriage. Then you meet a boy, and instantly sparks fly between you, when hanging out it takes every ounce of restraint to keep to your promise and remain pure in body and mind. Then imagine that, he forces himself on you, and begins to have sex with you – until you both hear a strange crunching sound, and the look on the boy’s face turns to horror as he realizes that his penis has just been bitten off…

…by your vagina!

Thus is the story of TEETH, the movie about Dawn Cobb, a normal all-American girl, who lives near a nuclear power plant, is one of those “bible freaks” that believes in abstinence and creationism, who just happens to be cursed (blessed?) with what is called Vagina Dentata, or teeth in the vagina. Starring a group of mostly unknowns, Jess Weixler plays Dawn, John Hensley (of NIP/TUCK) plays the step-brother Brad – a goth-asshole, who after an incident in his youth only likes to have anal sex, Hale Appleman plays Tobey and Ashley Springer plays Ryan and the feature debut of Writer/Director Mitchell Lichtenstein. 

I couldn’t even really think of what movie I could pair up with TEETH, for what I’ve sort of made my schtick of doing double reviews/commentaries. But, I felt the need to write up something for this right now. The movie is low-budget, and the actors are not first-rate – that’s not a diss, they mostly all do fine and the person I had the most problems with was Hensley, mostly because he wasn’t acting much different here than he does on NIP/TUCK. But, the special effects, which aren’t too gruesome – minus the knee-jerk reaction to a couple of shots of dismembered members (how many times was that joke made, I’m sure?!). And the creators of the movie, do the right thing in not giving us a shot of “the monster” lurking within Dawn, which could possibly have been done well, but mostly it’s just better to leave it up to our imagination and with a few nice subtle hints – like a coroner examining an object found in one victim, which turns out to be something like a hybrid shark/lamprey tooth, only the tests reveal that it’s human. 

The movie does a real good job of making Dawn into a character who in “normal, mainstream” fare would be the loser kid in the periphery wearing her abstinence shirts and glittery unicorn jackets – unless she was in Napoleon Dynamite, of course, but in this movie she’s not too over the top with it and therefore remains semi-relatable, just in the awkwardness of her being forced into being a sexual – and eventually predatory – creature. The stress associated with losing your virginity and the “does he/doesn’t she” feeling that you get when you meet a boy or girl that you might like is pretty universal. With the way the movie plays out, I could even see this as like a television series – probably on HBO or SHOWTIME, but nonetheless, I would be excited to follow more adventures with Dawn and see if she ever does find the “warrior that can conquer her”. Which, actually was the one real cringe-worthy character thing. Dawn is a strong, female character, but her being this fundamentalist, with the beliefs we’re led to believe she follows opens her up to falling into the trap of the woman that needs saving from the monster. 

The main characters in the movie besides Dawn, and her step-brother who I already mentioned are Tobey and Ryan. Both are boys that are looking to gain Dawn’s favor and both come off as boys that seem to care quite a bit and are nice sensitive boys. Tobey has taken the purity promise as well, and even after admitting an indiscretion, Dawn believes that that will just make him stronger because he knows “how dangerous sex can be”. Ryan, we see for just a moment at the beginning of the movie and he comes more to the forefront later, but he seems like a quiet, sweet kid who while not in the “circle” that Dawn hangs out in, still likes her and is there for her in a couple of moments that she has no one else to go to. Unfortunately, no one in this movie turns out to really be there for Dawn, in a way that helps her and soothes her. 

The movie does it’s best to show us and keep us involved with Dawn and her exploits through the music and a few glimpses at movies on TV. There are some moments where the soundtrack and editing seem to be winking at us and saying, “this movie is supposed to scare you, but it’s also just supposed to be fun!” and then there are some genuinely scary and freaky moments. I’ve discussed the special effects, but it really is the actors that help sell some of the things that happen. At first I thought that it was kind of strange in how certain people sounded the same when they screamed, but then it hit me, “how else would you scream, if that was happening to you?” And Lichtenstein uses his camera well, and sets up the movie to reveal what it needs to, hides what we don’t need to see and uses the mise en scene a couple of times to through in some multiple points to look at during certain moments. Then there’s the production design which has some fun, whether it’s the unicorn shirts, or the tattoos (which are bad, but I’m just marking that up to be the character with tattoos in this movie would have bad tattoos, and even some bill-boards and my favorite the sex-ed books with giant gold stars over the pages featuring the female genitalia. (“Because women, have a built in modesty” as Dawn says. Only to then be the only one that gets a glimpse of what’s under the star.)

I had wanted to see this movie since I first heard about it, and then when it came out – as happens with a lot of movies – it just kind of fell off my radar, or when there was an opportunity to rent the DVD, there would be something I’d wanted to see more. And even though I’ve heard both rave reviews – obviously from the more “horror/gore” centric people – and not-so-positive reviews (the people that don’t like horror, or don’t get things like this that are supposed to also be funny), but I have to say that I really enjoyed TEETH. Not a perfect, or really even that good of a movie, but it’s a novelty and one that will definitely be a hit with a mixed group of friends – and even acquaintances you don’t know well – as it’s going to be a topic-starter when the movies over; you’re going to learn what people can handle, or what their tastes are; and most importantly you’ll know whether they can get the joke and lighten up or not.

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