Once every few decades, there comes a movie that you have to love. No, I don’t mean that it’s such a good film that saying it’s a bad movie will destroy all your credibility of a film critic or “that guy at the bar that knows everything about movies.” I mean, you have to love this movie for fear of being labeled a sexist, or racist, or a fascist because it is such great social commentary.
Just think, if Thelma and Louise had Cameron Diaz and Tori Spelling as the lead roles, the story-line still would have called for recognition, and anyone who thought it was bad would be labeled an instant “woman-hater.” In horror, the movie “you had to love” not too long ago was Ginger Snaps. Why? Because someone thought of the already rehashed idea of using the menstrual cycle in comparison to lunar cycles and threw a werewolf story into it? Didn’t they already do that horribly in An American Werewolf in Paris? But if you say anything bad about Ginger Snaps, you aren’t “sympathetic to the plight of women.”(Yes, an actual quote from someone on an online message board.) What about that smorgasbord of a film Crash? I happen to like that movie, but there were plenty of annoying plot jerks that I’m sure a few people in the world didn’t care for it. Does that mean they’re racist? No.
Which brings us to today’s sociological experiment of a film, Teeth, directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein. The plot of this movie is simple: We have a film sequence of a soon-to-be happy family of two broken families, with a step-brother and step-sister playing in the pool underneath a view of a nuclear power plant. The children play “doctor,” and the boy’s finger is cut by an unknown source. Ooooooh, the suspense.
Present day: a teenaged girl, Dawn (played by Jess Weixler), proudly struts her virginity, and is the spokes-person for some fanatical anti-sex group that advocates no sex before marriage. Yes, they wear little rubber-band rings as their “promise” not to have unclean thoughts, because they’re married to Jesus or something.
Enter Tobey (played by Hale Appleman), who is supposed to be some stand-up Christian boy. To me it looks like he decided to follow Dawn around, and B.S. her about how he’s saving himself for marriage and such to get in her pants. So Dawn and Tobey begin “dating,” which means holding hands, blushing when Tobey gives Dawn a peck on the cheek, and swimming in one-piece bathing suits. Hows 1950’s-ish. Finally, Tobey has enough of his whole “no sex” lie, and attempts to rape Dawn. The attempt ends with Tobey screaming, Dawn screaming, Tobey disappearing, and a great shot of Tobey’s severed penis on the ground. Uh-ooooh, seems like Dawn has a little problem. No WONDER she was a no-sex advocate.
Dawn becomes depressed, and reads all about the legend of the vagina dentata. She goes to visit a gynecologist about this, Dr. Godfrey (played by Josh Pais). The gynecologist turns out to be male and, of course, a pedophile, which is o-k since he gets his. His fingers are cut off by Dawn’s va-jay-jay, and she runs away.
Dawn goes home and finds her Mom half-dead on the floor, and her step-brother banging his girlfriend (Side note: he’s scared of the va-jay-jay). She runs off, into the arms of some guy named Ryan. He drugs her up, and they have sex, safely! The next morning they are about to bump skins again, but Ryan does bad by answering the phone while they’re going at it and it turns out Ryan was trying to sleep with Dawn on a bet, so Dawn’s hoo-hah has another snack.
Dawn becomes comfortable being some sort of super-heroine, and decides to go after her brother Brad. Apparently Brad only likes anal sex with women, but Dawn coerces him to have normal intercourse, which ends with Brad bleeding all over the place and his dog chewing on his severed penis. I’m sorry for the long synopsis, but I felt it was necessary, since one of my problems with this film was plot structure. I forgot that it wasn’t A-B-C simple.
Portrayed as a horror/black comedy, the film Teeth works on a few levels. The idea of sex as a weapon, as much as it has been done, is always great for a few laughs if done correctly. Yes, in this instance correctly could mean having a penis-eating vagina. I can even look past Tobey hounding after Dawn, and never really being abstinent. The abstinence club itself is ridiculous, in the comical way, not the annoying way.
The penis shots were the only visually horrific spots of the movie. It wasn’t done as a pornographic depiction. They were more like props, especially since they were not attached to their hosts, ever(visually).
So what is it about this movie that irks me? The story is a bit slow for a horror movie. This can be problematic to some viewers. Normal horror aficionados want a lot of blood and gore, and this movie doesn’t deliver too much. At the same time, the gore that is there may disgust drama and black comedy buffs. This movie is good, but inconsistent with itself. It’s not a good genre jumper, like Shaun of the Dead or Severance. I think it may end up alienating more genre followers than entertaining.
The biggest problem I have with this movie is minor, but detracts from the film in a major way. Each part of the movie, introduction, Act 1, Act 2, and Climax, are bookmarked by these stupid-looking smoke-stacks from, we’re guessing, a nuclear power plant. I don’t like things sketched out this precise, especially when it has nothing to do with the story. There is no mad scientist at the plant trying to create the perfect woman, or penis and vagina monsters. If you want to say “Hey look, nuclear pollution created Dawn’s hoo-hah demon!” then say it once, and be done with it. If the viewer is intelligent enough to swim through your muddled storyline, I’m sure they can figure out your “Nucleer Powr Iz BADD” premise.
All in all, I expected more from a movie about a killer vagina (no, really, considering the hype surrounding this movie). I give this film 2 out of 5 sarlacc pits.