Teengirl Dawn feels a bit uncomfortable about her sexuality coming into bloom. She feels kind of edgy down there. Sharp as a knife kind of edgy.
(Spoilers may follow…)
Every now and then, a certain theme comes along which, in the hands of an untalented filmmaker, could easily be turned into a very wrong movie. Thankfully, Mitchell Lichtenstein isn’t such a filmmaker. Not only did he manage to write a witty and catchy script, he also turned it into his first feature-length movie. It’s inevitable to not mention the words “vagina” and “teeth” when writing about this film, but I’ll restrain from going too “deep” into the subject matter. Just use your own imagination to conjure any detailed images. Because that’s also what Lichtenstein wants you to do.
Obviously, given the movie’s title and by now all the media attention it has gotten and the many praises and promotional slogans generated thereby, it is no secret what this movie is about. And if you’ve been living on Mars the last two years, then there’s always the opening-scene, which gives you a pretty good hint at what’s coming. And by that, Lichtenstein is playing his cards right: He shows you a little something, then holds back a bit. Then he shows you a little more, and gets on with the story. And everytime you get to see something more, it gets messier, gorier and crazier. And by this, I’m talking about what happens to every single guy who dares to put one thing or another into Dawn’s… well, you get the picture, right?
Now that we have that out of the way, I can just come clean and say rightaway that you’ll never get to see Dawn’s toothed little furry-beast. It obviously was the director’s choice from the start, and it’s clearly the right choice. But the, ehrr…, attacks (let’s call it that, shall we?) are nevertheless very vicious and the bloody aftermath is extremely gruesome. Truely, this is every man’s nightmare. But this is where the horror of TEETH ends. Aside from the horrific premisse, the script is injected with a healthy dosage of humour and sensitivity, turning TEETH into a quite loveable movie. Nothing even vaguely smells like slapstick – though the gag with the dog and the penis came close, it was handled too subtle to be categorised as slapstick – and that’s because Lichtenstein knows how to treat the material he’s working with.
Same goes for the scene at the gynecologist. It builds up to an hysterical climax, but it still remains appropriate within the movie’s realm. Then there’s the matter of the sex-scenes, which are carefully sprinkled throughout the movie. While being a member of the male population, I can safely say that it is not pleasant to witness what inevitably will happen while having sex with Dawn. Yet the few sex-scenes are directed in such a way that they come off as highly sensual, arrousing and erotic. They had me going everytime – all this while knowing what was going to happen – and fooled me afterwards. So weird, that was. I bet Sigmund Freud would have a ball, analyzing this film.
I’ve heard people say TEETH is a rape/revenge flick. I have to admit, the theme is there, yes. But when they say it’s nothing more than just that, I think they might have missed out on several aspects of the movie. For one thing, Dawn isn’t consciously causing those mutilations. At least not at first. And there’s much more going on besides willies getting bitten off. I do admit that with some things, it was a bit hard to tell if Lichtenstein was making fun of them, or making a statement (No sex before marriage? What with all the mutilations seemingly being politically correct, from a rape/revenge point of view?). Oh well, it’s just a movie, and TEETH does manage to entertain. Quite a bit even.
While the whole movie is competently carried by a young cast, it really is Jess Weixler who’s the star of this film and she manages to strongly convince in her first leading rol. Her character is apropriately named Dawn, as she herself is at the dawn of her own sexuality. And while part of this movie really is about a young girl trying to understand the changes her body is going through, it doesn’t really, at any point, venture into the psychological nature of the events. One might complain that the movie is too shallow on this level, but it helps giving TEETH the light-heartedness it very much needs. The way Weixler‘s character is introduced, might seem a bit over-the-top at first. Why the conservative ideals? Why the supressed feelings towards sexuality? But it does make sense, given the nature of her little problem.
Another thing TEETH does not provide, is an explanation for her mutation. And again, it’s not needed. Though, I believe the movie shows us a big hint on several occasions in scenes where we can see the landscape behind Dawn’s house. And ironically, this little hint is about the only thing that could have turned TEETH into a very wrong movie. Am I not making sense here…? Well, then, try to follow this: Toothed vagina… Doesn’t that sound a bit like Troma-material? Now think about… and then take a look at this image from TEETH:
Woosh, I think I’m getting a little carried away here… Either way, I’m very glad TEETH turned out like it did. It’s a beautiful film that still manages to shock. Yes, it might be a little predictable when it comes to the development of events, but the originality of the basic idea made me not give a damn about predictability. After having had fun throughout the whole movie, the final scene with Dawn and her brother played out right, just like it should have. And then the little epilogue provided the cherry on the cake and confirms what had been slumbering throughout the last half of the movie: Dawn learning how to “control” her “abilities”, and putting them to use as she sees fit. And that, my male friends, is one scary thought.
I told you this is a beautiful movie…: