Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein
Expectations: Not much.
When you sit down to watch a horror movie about a teenage girl with teeth in her vagina, I think it’s a fair assumption to expect something trashy. But Teeth is surprisingly not trashy, even with a couple of trashy characters and some truly gruesome gore moments. The key is that the focus of Teeth is never on the horror, in fact it’s wrong to even think of this as a horror movie. If anything it’s a reverse horror film, where the girl is equipped to deal with her attackers. What she isn’t quite equipped to deal with, just like the men in the story, is her sexuality.
Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a leader for her school’s promise ring program, where kids promise they’ll remain abstinent until marriage. During one of her talks, she locks eyes with a boy her age and they have an instant spark. They begin a relationship, and, knowing the premise of the film, it’s not hard to put two and two together to figure out where it leads. But this relationship isn’t the core of the film, it is merely the jumping off point for Dawn’s growth as a woman.
The FX work is limited to the bare minimum necessary to tell the story, but what’s here is exceptionally well-realized. Severed penises and bleeding stumps aren’t the normal mainstream fare, but Teeth shows it all in stunning — and often hilarious — detail. I squirmed, I groaned, I yelled in pain; I can’t even imagine what it was like for the actors who had to wear the prosthetics. A surreal moment in their lives, I’m sure. In any case, despite heading into near-Troma levels of penile trauma, Teeth never seems trashy with its gore. You could easily cut a version of this film without any of the gore and it would arguably be just as effective on a storytelling level. But without the gore, it would be lacking that extra little oomph that it definitely needs to make it memorable.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing dickhead men getting their just deserts, and Teeth filled that bill nicely. If you’re looking for a very different take on the coming-of-age story, and you’re not too squeamish, definitely consider giving Teeth a look.